A new group led by autistic people has launched in Essex, with the aim to improve services across the county.

Speak Out Essex will be led by autistic people who are employed by or volunteer for voice and rights charity VoiceAbility to raise issues that are important to them.

They will work with Essex County Council and other professionals who can make a difference.

Speak Out leaders and peer volunteers will work alongside facilitators in working groups to discuss issues affecting autistic people, such as diagnosis, accommodation, employment, education and training.

Speaking during National Co-production Week earlier this month, Speak Out leader Elspeth Jones has talked about the importance of the role.

She said: "Co-production with autistic people is important because none of us view reality in the same way.

"We don’t experience the world the same way as everyone else, so services won’t work well for us unless we are listened to."

Suggestions from Speak Out Essex on how to improve services for autistic people will be fed back to meetings of the Essex All Age Autism Partnership Board, which Speak Out leaders will be supported to take part in.

The board, which is facilitated by Essex County Council, is made up of autistic people, families, public bodies, voluntary and community partners across Essex, and supports the vision of making Essex an autism-friendly county.


Since the strategy launched in 2020, the board has been working with autistic people and their families on delivering the local All Age Autism Strategy.

Nicola Bishop, Connections Speak Out team leader for VoiceAbility, added: "We’re delighted to be working with Essex County Council to launch Speak Out Essex, following the successes of our other Speak Out groups across the country.

"It’s vital that autistic people have a voice, and through Speak Out Essex our aim is to ensure autistic people are heard and can lead the change which improves lives.

"If you have lived experience of autism then please get in touch – we’re keen to have more Speak Out Essex leaders and peer volunteers involved."

For more information visit voiceability.org/speak-out-essex or apply as a peer volunteer via voiceability.org/speak-out-essex-peer-volunteer.