21st October 2019 • Emma Cooper
Happy October! It’s personally one of my favourite months of the year; the weather turns crisp but not freezing, the onesies and fluffy socks are now appropriate to wear in the house, leaves start to turn orange, conkers are everywhere and for those of us who partake – Halloween is upon us.
Speaking of which, I have been working my tricks to try and gain some treats for the disabled community again this month. I’ve been talking to Government departments on why we need boards and panels in the UK that are representative of the people it serves. We need disabled professional board panels as standard.
It’s not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do; it saves time, money and lives.
Advocacy is the only job I can think of where your actual role is hoping your role will never be needed again. If you do it right, eventually you’ll work your way out of a job.
I hope by the time your children are adults, this article will feel 100 years out of date because the educational system, GCSEs and the like will have evolved beyond recognition.
The role of being an advocate means wearing many hats. In the morning you could be writing an article for the Financial Times about the legislative loopholes in Fintech and DVLA policy which leaves the UKs most vulnerable exposed to financial abuse. In the afternoon, you may have an appointment at the office giving Safeguarding training with the parents and preteen girl who’s been victim to an assault. Sunday morning you could be cleaning up the mess of the autism youth club and first thing Monday you could be in a suit addressing the United Nations.
A bizarre self-inflicted life choice for an autistic woman whose very condition itself yearns for routine.
However, I have found a haven in Government public appointments. The Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Annual Report was published last week, and it is a must-read for all public bodies committed to diversity and inclusion. With 6% of new appointments being made to individuals declaring a disability, the report highlights that there is still a long way to go when it comes to under-representation in public appointments.
However, the process to apply is very autism friendly and the roles tend to be more routine driven. I’ll be honest, I was surprised I was given the roles, although my work has reached the United Nations, Washington DC and Cambridge University. I left school at 15, pregnant, homeless with no GCSEs and therefore I lack a sparkling education history on my CV. The government public appointments website for such panels, however, invite applicants to send a cover letter and personal statement to support their CV. Without this, people like me would be left behind and it is a shame for other departments and organisations that don’t follow this model as appointing an autistic professional may be one of the smartest moves a manager can make.
The Nolan principals
It was during this work that I was forwarded the 7 principles of public life, also known as the Nolan principals. These form the basis of the ethical standards expected of public office holders:
All talents not academically tested, all fundamental qualities of public appointments and all a predisposition naturally hardwired into the autistic mindset. I thought of my daughters and the young autistic people I support and struggled to think of one who didn’t have these 7 principles, without even trying.
So, what if our UK schools tested our children on these Public Service traits? What if there was a GCSE in kindness? What if you could obtain A levels in integrity, honesty and leadership? More importantly what if ALL employers sought to employ those who naturally live by the Nolan principals? What if ALL employees looked past the academic history and were more interested in what the university of life had taught you? What would the prospects be for our children that naturally possess these traits that cannot be taught or bought?
What a disservice to effectiveness, our boards and our budgets to not understand the importance of embracing them?
I’ve said before that I believe autistic perspectives are the UKs untapped oil. I don’t think that anymore – I KNOW IT.
If you could create a new GCSE for your child what would it be?
What accessibility measure would your child need to be able to learn effectively? I home educate my secondary school age daughter as school just didn’t work for her. She, like myself, seems to be able to write and read more constructively at 5am rather than 2pm. There are also days when the sensory issues of school would build up to such a degree that a day off was required. What struck me was that the day off would never be to laze around but, in fact, she would want to learn on the laptop or in the library and the like. Is the educational system missing a trick? What if, just like many jobs, we could have nationally supported and universally funded flexitime at school? Or remote schooling?
Or simply, mental health days off for our young people to restock, recharge or redirect their hours of learning into a subject matter they adore and will one day make a career of? A career they gained not because of their GCSEs but because of their success at the university of life?
What do you think? Tweet us your thoughts at @weareMFON – we would love to know. If you have questions about education – why not check our Education and Learning section for advice and personal experience stories.