Minutes of March 2012 meeting

Final March Minutes
Minutes of meeting of the Board of directors of The Autscape Organisation
Meeting date: Sunday 4th March 2012
Meeting time: 2.00pm BST

Present:  Elaine, Kalen, Martijn, Peter, Stephen, Trish and Yo


1.1.Formal programme content. There was a discussion about the voting procedure
for the board to decide on which proposals to accept for the formal programme
and whether or not the board had had adequate notice of the format which the
vote would take. The company secretary noted that there were differences in the
procedure for voting on the proposals from that of the previous year and
expressed the view that good practice would be to ensure that the board had
sufficient advance warning of the actual format of the vote. The formal
programme subcommittee chair expressed the view that the board had been
provided with the summary of the proposals and invited to comment in advance
and that this constituted an adequate opportunity to consider the issues. She
also commented that, although directors should ideally work to avoid similar
situations, to some extent it is unavoidable on occasion.  
1.1.1. The board decided to accept the following proposals:
"How to get the best our of your dentist" (ML Hamilton)
"Perceptions of diversity and the parent/self-advocate divide" (Damian Milton)
 "An exploration of how we respond to similarities and differences and how we
migh" (Caroline Hearst)
1.1.2. The board decided to accept the following proposals:
"Vive la difference - does how others describe us matter" (Larry Arnold)
"Dating and romance - more success and less heartbreak" (Jay Blue)

1.2.The board decided to delegate the task of scheduling the programme to
Kalen. (6 for, 0 against).

1.3.  The board authorised the fundraising coordinator to apply for a grant
from Trefoil (http://www.trefoil.org.uk/) to fund financial support for up to
10 under 25s attending Autscape subject to final checking of the application by
either the company secretary or chair. (Unanimous). There was a brief
discussion, with views expressed on both sides of the issue, about the
appropriateness of delegating a general authority to make grant
applications. No conclusion was reached at this time.

1.4. The board decided to delegate Peter the task of purchasing the domain
autscape.info from its current owner (Larry Arnold), assuming that he is
willing to sell it, and redirect it to our main site. (Unanimous)

1.5.The board considered whether to apply to the Charity Commission to delete
article 3(b) from the articles of association. [see Appendix B for briefing
paper]. Following advice from the company secretary and a brief discussion, in
which there was a consensus that this object represented an important aspect of
Autscape’s work, the board decided to retain article 3(b). (Unanimous).

1.6.  The board decided to adopt the policy on directors' privacy [see Appendix
A]. (Unanimous)

1.7.  The board decided to adopt the accessibility policy [see Appendix
C]. (Unanimous)

2. Follow ups

2.1.Chair of research subcommittee. The chair reported that there still wasn't
a volunteer and she hadn't had time to pursue other possibilities.

2.2.  Domain transfers. Martijn reported that he had not succeeded in making
progress on this partly due to the fact that he didn't have a clear idea of the
procedures involved. Following a brief discussion, it was clear that the issues
required further, more detailed, discussion outside of the meeting. 
3. Subcommittee progress reports.

3.1.Formal programme subcommittee (proposals voting, invitations, other issues)
The subcommittee chair reported that the proposals voting had been completed
(see 1.1). Invitations were next on her list.

3.2.  Alternative programme subcommittee (call for leisure activities, budget,
alternative programme intentions). The subcommittee chair reported that things
continued to be very slow. She had the call for activities ready which she will
send to the chair for proofreading. 

3.3.Fundraising subcommittee (funding strategy). The subcommittee chair
reported that she was hoping to get the funding strategy to the board
soon. There had also been a bit of a problem registering with Virginmoneygiving
and the Treasurer said he would give more details in his report. (see 4.3)

3.4.Research subcommittee (sc membership, childcare research progress,
transport research progress). The chair (coordinating in the absence of a
subcommittee chair) reported that there were no new members. Childcare research
had progressed and they would hopefully have a shortlist soon. There was also
some transport progress despite a bit of confusion over who was responsible
which has now been sorted. Venue research has not started anew, but a good
place to begin would be the database Debbie prepared last year.

3.5.Publications and publicity subcommittee (website wording inc. venue,
advertisement deadlines, publicity planning, generic description). The
subcommittee chair reported that he was not happy with his functioning and
acknowledged responsibility for that. He hadn't made any progress on the venue
info but he would prioritize that. The deadline for the AUKids ad is 15th March
and they will manage to get that ready as he has a previous design base to
use. Publicity planning needs to be restarted and there was no progress on a
generic description. The company secretary offered to help with prompting. 

3.6.Working group reports 
Echo. The working group chair reported that they were making progress but
slowly and the feasibility study was on target for reporting at the April
Newsletter. The working group chair had nothing to report. 
Tech. The working group chair had nothing to report.
Purchasing. The working group chair reported that he had a potential supplier
for general stim toys and he needed to get opinions on possible options
regarding stuffed animals this year. He also needed to ask the board for a list
of things that need purchasing for reasons other than merchandise, including
things that some people have 'just done' in other years. 

4.Key position progress reports (matters not covered earlier)

4.1.Webmaster (updating website, certificate issues, registration system). The
webmaster said there was nothing to report on the main part of the web
site. However he had been working on the admin part of the web site and it is
now possible to export the accounts to an Excel spreadsheet. He hadn't started
the bookings system yet but believed that he would achieve the target of the
end of the month. 

4.2.Venue coordinator 2012 (planned venue visits, venue information for sc
pub). The venue coordinator said he was in discussion with the venue about a
suitable date and time for a second venue visit. He had also just answered the
questions about the venue raised in response to the venue information for the

4.3. Treasurer (actions taken under delegated authority, virginmoneygiving,
bank account, HMRC, accounts and accounting advice). The treasurer reported
that we now have the new bank account, including cheque books and an initial
statement, but not including passwords for on-line banking yet. He had also
sent off the initial statement to PayPal to apply for their charities rate, and
he will send Virgin Money Giving a voided cheque to prove that we own the
account. He also sent a DD form in for PayPal so we can switch them to using
the new bank account, but they haven't processed that yet. Regarding
Virginmoneygiving he said the situation was not ideal. They need the HMRC
charity reference number in order to handle Gift Aid, and they won't put a
charity on their site unless they are going to do Gift Aid
processing. Consequently the application to be registered as an HMRC charity is
somewhat beyond urgent so he has filled in the appropriate forms and sent them
off to HMRC. That could take a few weeks to process. Our existing mechanism for
donations via PayPal continues to exist, and has been tested to check that it
still works. Unfortunately he hadn't made as much progress on the external
examination as he wanted as he had forgotten quite how long the checklist of
materials they need is. He believes that he now had everything except for the
following: The AGM minutes, All Board meeting minutes, The Annual Report. The
chair and the company secretary said they would help with these. The company
secretary also asked if he had sought accountancy advice regarding organisers
subsidies and whether they act as payments to trustees. The treasurer said he
had sent a letter to the accountant and was awaiting a reply.

4.4.Company Secretary (actions taken under delegated authority, annual report,
info@ guidance, policies and job descriptions, files). The company secretary
reported that the annual report was nearing completion and will need to be
approved by the board before it can be submitted (it's due at the end of
March). She will post more details about it on list. She hadn't managed the
info@ guidance yet but she wrote 2 policies this month with several more to
go. She also wrote a briefing paper for the board on article 3(b) and will
execute that decision by covering the issue in the annual report. She had also
tidied up all the outstanding minutes and submitted them to the chair for
approval prior to publication. Furthermore she had done research on issues
covered in the closed meeting. She still hadn't managed to get to the
files. She also said that due to the lack of a newsletter and the concerns
about the chat list being overwhelming, she intended to use her delegated
authority to send a monthly email to the members providing a brief summary of
what Autscape has been doing, unless there were strong objections. 

4.5.Chair (actions taken under delegated authority, general progress, any other
matters). The chair thought that general progress was good but communication
remains bad and she would like more discussion of matters that are posted to
the board list for that purpose as that's what the list is there for. We also
need all board members to report back on things they are doing, delegated or
not, so others can take coordinated action where needed. She had also been
working on approving a lot of outstanding minutes. 

5.Any other business 
5.1. The chair delegated the webmaster the authority to sort out the SSL
certificate as he sees fit at a cost up to GBP60.
5.2.The board decided to ask Martijn to register #autscape on Starlink-IRC. 

Meeting closed at 16.06 BST


Policy on directors’ privacy

As an autistic-run organisation, Autscape recognises that being identified as a
director of Autscape may cause an individual to be (correctly or incorrectly)
identified as autistic. While Autscape promotes a positive view of autism, we
recognise that disability discrimination is widespread and consequently that
directors may prefer at times not to be publicly identified as such. 

As a charitable company, Autscape directors are required by law to provide full
identity information in some circumstances and will abide by these
requirements. However, in all other contexts it is Autscape’s policy to refer
to directors by a name of their choosing which may not be their full legal
name. Where a director chooses to use such a name, the same name will be used
consistently and will be a name by which they are generally known to Autscape


Briefing paper on the educational objective

When Autscape registered as a charity, the charity commission made two
comments. This paper deals with the issue raised by one of those comments.

One of our objects (the charitable aims of Autscape) is "to advance the 
education and awareness of the public in all matters relating to autism and 
in particular to increase public awareness of the problems faced by, and the 
general circumstances of, autistic people and their families, thus 
encouraging increased acceptance and support of autistic people in the 
community;". (Article 3(b))

At the time of registration we did not provide the Charity Commission with much
detail as to how Autscape educates the public because it is not Autscape's
primary focus (which is Article 3(a) – organising the conference as respite).

The commission stated that board will need to monitor whether Autscape is in
fact educating the public and if (say) by the time the board provide their
first annual report 
to the Charity Commission there is no real education of the public taking 
place the board may need to consider seeking Charity Commission consent to 
deleting this object. This point has now arrived.

Having researched the Charity Commission guidance on this issue, my advice to
the board is that there is no need for Autscape to delete this object (unless
the board particularly wishes to do so). This is because this object is being
fulfilled through Autscape’s current activities and I do not believe it will be
difficult to demonstrate this to the Charity Commission in the Annual Report
(and the current draft of the Annual Report seeks to do just that). The board
may wish to consider whether it is in Autscape’s interests to retain article
3(b) (the educational object) in order to make clear that the provision of the
Autscape conference is intended to meet educational objectives in addition to
the respite objectives provided for in article 3(a).

CC’s guidance states “In general, to 'advance' education means to promote,
sustain and increase individual and collective knowledge and understanding of
specific areas of study, skills and expertise.” Autscape does this by adding to
collective knowledge and understanding and transmission of knowledge about
autism by soliciting presentations for the Autscape conference (which would not
exist without Autscape), providing access to those presentations to our
participants and to a broader section of the public by placing material from
presentations on our website. CC’s guidance refers to:
“making materials, or objects capable of educating, available to the public,
such as in libraries or on databases.”
“providing services … conferences”
“promoting knowledge [through]‘research which is made generally available,
including publishing the useful results of that research’”
Autscape currently does all of these.

The ‘public’ in this context, does not need to be the entire general
public. CC’s guidance states “A section of the public defined by social
circumstances or charitable need might be a sufficient section of the public
for advancing education.”. The fact that Autscape primarily educates autistics
is, thus, acceptable. However, given that the education of autistics
specifically is provided for by article 3(c), the board may wish to consider
the fact that Autscape does currently make materials available to the general
public via our website and welcomes non-autistic people to the Autscape

Full information about what constitutes advancement of education of the public
is available here: 

For reference, the whole of article 3 (Autscape’s objects) is provided below:

The objects for which the company is formed shall be: 

(a) to provide respite and support for autistic people by (i) organising
retreat-style conferences at which autistic people can learn, engage in
activities, socialize and relax in an autistic-orientated environment and (ii)
generally provide them and their families and carers with information, advice
and other forms of assistance;

(b) to advance the education and awareness of the public in all matters
relating to autism and in particular to increase public awareness of the
problems faced by, and the general circumstances of, autistic people and their
families, thus encouraging increased acceptance and support of autistic people
in the community;

(c) to advance and promote the education of autistic people in self-advocacy
and in those issues which are of particular interest and/or relevance to
autistic people; and

(d) to do such other charitable things for the benefit and/or support of
autistic people as the directors in their discretion shall decide

and for the avoidance of doubt the phrase ‘autistic people’ shall include all
people who consider themselves to be autistic or to be close to the autistic
spectrum whether or not they have been formally diagnosed as such.


Rationale (not part of the policy)

 The purposes of adopting this policy are:
- to write down and formalise existing Autscape practise
- to showcase for funders, the Charity Commission, other outsiders and those
of our own members who are prone to complaining a lot on this issue just how
hard we work to make Autscape accessible to autistics in ways that wouldn't
even occur to most organisations
- to demonstrate for the Charity Commission and others why Autscape venues
aren't always physically accessible, what we do to try to make them
physically accessible (and how that sometimes causes the fees to go up) and
how we try to balance physical accessibility with other (less obvious) kinds
of accessibility which are particularly relevant for us (such as financial

The main issues we will need to consider in adopting a formal policy on this
(1) Whether to prioritise autistic needs over other needs (see first para)
[Incidentally it is completely legal for us to do so because we are an
autism-specific charity]
(2) What exactly we do intend to do about balancing conflicting needs and
whether the 'alternate year' idea (which has been vaguely talked about
informally for a while) is the way to go (see last para)

Autscape accessibility policy (revised draft)

Autscape tries to make our events as accessible as we can to everyone. Our
purpose is to run events to benefit autistic people. So we will prioritise the
needs of autistic people when we make decisions about accessibility. 

We know that lots of things can affect whether autistic people can access our
events. Here are some examples:
Access needAdjustment made
Difficulty getting things done on time because of inertia try to avoid 'first come' first served
prompt people several times to do things give information all together to make tasks easier
Difficulty responding to open questions give menus of choices or a clear structure for responding to questions
Obsessive compulsive issues around cleanliness choose venues with some ensuite bathrooms
Social or sensory difficulties making sharing a room impossible choose venues with some single rooms
Visual sensory/processing difficulties choose more accessible fonts and colours for our documents
Need for detailed information give people very detailed information about our events
Sensitivity to smell have a rule banning use of scented products at our events
Difficulties initiating/engaging in verbal communication give people ways of communicating without speaking (such as initiation control badges, access to pen and paper)
Sensory issues with noise choose venue in quiet location away from busy road or other noise
ask venue to stop other noisy activities
Need for extra personal space and interaction free space no interaction table and red badge.
choose a venue with lots of open space (indoor and out)
We realise that autistic people are just as likely to have other disabilities
as non-autistic people. We also have a moral duty to promote disability rights
in general, not just those which affect autistic people. So Autscape will try
to make our events physically accessible.

We realise that autistic people are likely to have less money than non-autistic
people.  This is because many autistics experience difficulties accessing
employment and social and family stresses. Some cannot get jobs at all. Others
find it difficult to get or keep higher paying jobs, even when they have the
skills and qualifications for those jobs. So Autscape will try to make our
events accessible to people who struggle to pay for them.

Sometimes, making an event more accessible to one group means doing something
which makes it less accessible to another group. We realise that choosing a
venue which is physically accessible and has ensuite and single rooms usually
means higher costs. And choosing a cheaper venue often means that it isn’t very
accessible for those with mobility needs and may not have ensuite or single
rooms. We try to balance everyone’s needs by giving priority to different needs
each year. 

Autscape will try to make sure that anyone who wants to come to an Autscape
event can reasonably access one at least once every two or three years.