The year of the ‘A’ word

2017 has been an exciting and at times difficult year for all of us in the NPAA. To start with, our initial goal of embedding a coordinator in every UK Force came to pass, which for a young organisation like us is a massive achievement. We move into 2018 with the firm goal of increasing our awareness further, both nationally and now internationally. Some of our early coordinators have stepped down for various reasons. They leave us with our best wishes and we hope they remain close friends.

2017 also saw the inaugural NPAA national coordinators meeting at BTP headquarters in London. (On a personal note, it also contained what I think was the best use of a word this year – ‘inveigled’ – thanks Mai!) The fact that Deputy (now Acting) Chief Constable Janette McCormick took time out of her incredibly busy schedule to join us for the day speaks volumes as to how seriously many Chief Officers take our work. One of the challenges we all face in 2018 is to continue to keep ourselves in the forefront of their minds.

Che Donald (Police Federation) and Janette McCormick (NPCC Disability Lead) with NPAA Coordinators at
British Transport Police HQ, London, June 2017

There have been pockets of outstanding practice all over the UK, of which there is too much to mention here. However special mention has to go to Cheshire Constabulary, West Midlands Police and West Yorkshire Police, which all made it into the top 20 inclusive UK employers for 2017 – no small achievement. Many of the best and most forward-thinking employers are waking up to the fact that people on the neurodiversity spectrum have very specific skills which can be exploited. Let’s hope policing isn’t far behind.

Our web forum has also continued to grow, now up to over 600 members at time of writing. If you work for a police force, a charity or in the public sector, you are probably eligible to join – take a moment to register, the breadth of topics makes it an essential resource for anyone needing support or information on our work.

2017 was perhaps the year that autism finally made into mainstream consciousness. It was almost impossible to turn the TV on without seeing a programme specifically about the topic such as Atypical or the wonderful A Word, or find characters who would almost certainly get a diagnosis in real life in other programmes. Chris Packham’s documentary was one of the braver things I’ve watched, uncomfortable viewing as it was at times. My only concern is that while it’s great from an entertainment perspective to watch characters with a very specific skill set, it’s perhaps the case that the difficulties we all face are glossed over. Many companies and businesses have started to offer autism-friendly services, such as Asda and the Glasgow ice rink which is a very welcome step in the right direction.

Moving into 2018, many of us will be involved in either creating or delivering awareness training to our colleagues, which is no small task considering we all have day jobs. Training shared is training halved in our view, so if you do create any training materials, do please share them with us. We work closely with the Disabled Police Association which continues to go from strength to strength, and we share their goal of disability being treated equally alongside visible diversity by the Home Office and College of Policing. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.

In the meantime, we wish you a happy, safe and most importantly quiet Christmas, whether you’re working or at home.

Adam O’Loughlin
Communications Officer