Minutes of February 2013 meeting

Minutes of meeting of the Board of directors of The Autscape Organisation

Meeting date: Sunday 17th February 2013

Meeting time: 2.00pm GMT

Meeting Chair: Martijn

Present:  Elaine, Martijn, Stephen, Trish and Yo

1.      The directors waived their right to formal notice of this meeting (5
for, 0 against)

2.      The board ratified (5 for, 0 against) its decisions to:

2.1.   ask the donor who underwrote up to 10 places for Autscape 2012 to pay
only the amount Autscape is actually being charged by the venue and not the
full cost of the unfilled places (emails on list 21.01.13-22.01.13)

2.2.   approve the adverts and role descriptions posted to the board list
for release via the methods previously approved. (emails on list

2.3.   (1) ask Stephen to apply on Autscape's behalf for a 12-month delivery
PO box at a cost of £230 + VAT (emails on list 31.01.13 - 03.02.13)
(2) review this decision in 9 months time (October 2013) to consider whether
to continue with the arrangement long term. (emails on list 31.01.13 -

3.      Proposals

3.1.   Fees. The board discussed the 2013 residential fees proposed by the
interim treasurer (see Appendix A for rationale). In response to a question,
the interim treasurer clarified that the gap between the standard adult rate
and the 'carer' rate is within £10 of the gap the last time Autscape was
held at this venue. The need to keep an eye on the number of individuals
registering at the 'carer' rate was noted, along with the importance of
making very clear that this rate is only intended for individuals who are
not benefiting from or attending the conference in their own right. The
chair thanked the interim treasurer (Stephen) for his work on this proposal.
The board decided (4 for, 0 against) that the 2013 residential fee structure
will be as follows:

Adult - 180 GBP
Carer - 120 GBP
Child 5-17 - 150 GBP
Child 0-4 - 60 GBP
Babe-in-arms (No child-care) - 0
En-suite/Single supplement - 40 GBP
Low income discount - 20 GBP

3.2.   Mobile phone. The board considered Stephen's proposal that Autscape
get a cheap mobile to take incoming calls. He pointed out that it would
allow the phone to be transferred between those who are able to take calls,
whilst maintaining only have one phone number as far as the public are
concerned and avoiding the need to put anyone's personal phone numbers
online. In the discussion it emerged that a business package with multiple
phones would probably be ideal, but potentially expensive. It was agreed
that the current proposal made good sense in the short term, while the
possibility of affordable, more comprehensive solutions should be explored
longer term. The board decided that Autscape should get a cheap mobile to
take incoming calls. (5 for, 0 against)

3.3.   Registration closing date. The board decided to set 12th July as the
closing date for registration (4 for, 0 against).

3.4.   Cancellation policy.

3.4.1.      The board approved the cancellation policy (see Appendix B) (5
for, 0 against).

3.4.2.      The board delegated the power to set exact dates in the
cancellation policy for specific years to the registrar (5 for, 0 against).

4.      Follow ups

4.1.   PO box (Stephen). Stephen reported that he is wrestling with some
administrative details, but expects to make the application early in the
coming week.

4.2.   Director recruitment (Yo). The company secretary reported that she
has placed quite a few ads and sent out some by email. She is still working
to distribute the advertisements further. She explained that it is a long
process because the content of the ad/role description has to be rewritten
for each service we advertise with. She requested urgent assistance with
getting the information up on Autscape's website and Martijn undertook to do
that immediately after the meeting.

4.3.   Purchase/transfer of autscape domains (Martijn). Martijn reported
that he has not had time to make progress on this.

4.4.   Outstanding 2011-2012 minutes awaiting approval (which were needed
for accountants) (Martijn). Martijn reported significant progress with this
and hoped to complete these approvals shortly.

4.5.   Outstanding 2012-2013 minutes awaiting approval (Martijn). This item
was accidentally omitted from the meeting.

4.6.   Chat list guidance - arrangements for reminders/regular re-posting.
The board asked Stephen to set up an automatic email to the chat list every
3 months to provide a reminder of the list guidelines.

4.7.   Insurance (Stephen, Yo, Elaine). Elaine had done some preliminary
research. Yo noted that she believes our previous provider to be a charity
specialist who is particularly suitable and that she thinks Peter had
previously suggested that the effort involved in extensive 'shopping around'
was not worth the cost saving. Stephen undertook to check the details of
last year's provider with Peter and pass this information to the board list
for Elaine to take forward.

4.8.   Guidelines for the use of the announce email list for proposal to the
board (Martijn). Martijn reported that this is still on his to-do list and
he intends to try to get it out as soon as he is able.

5.      Subcommittee progress reports

5.1.   Programme (Chair: Martijn) (call for proposals, proposal submission
system, proposal voting arrangements, proposed invitations, other issues).
Martijn reported that the call for proposals has been published widely on
the Internet and the proposal submission system is operational. He intends
to make voting arrangements with Peter, who is willing to get the system he
designed running again. He acknowledged that neither he nor Stephen has
either the energy or the ability to understand its technical details at this
point. He hasn't had time to deal with invitations and said that anyone who
has ideas for someone to invite should feel free to start a discussion on
the formal programme subcommittee. Yo mentioned that she vaguely remembers
something less than ideal happening last year that worked better the year
before in how the board voted on proposals, but her memory of the details
wasn't clear.

5.2.   Fundraising (Chair: Elaine) (fundraising strategy, other issues).
Elaine stated that she has done some more on this and needs to put it to the
board later this week.

5.3.   Research (Chair: Elaine) (childcare providers, transport providers,
writing up venue findings, other issues) Elaine reported that she summarised
the childcare options for the sc but nobody responded. She intends to take
that up again this week. On transport, she has looked at local providers but
would find it helpful to know who we used last time. Stephen suggested that
she ask Peter.

5.4.   Publications and publicity (Chair: Martijn) (AU advert, poster/flyer,
NAS directory, adverts in other publications, other issues). Martijn
reported that the AU advert is done and has been submitted. He said that
there had been no other progress yet, except that word is definitely
spreading on the internet. Yo asked whether it was worth considering
advertising in AU kids as we did last year. Martijn said that he's imagine
so because it would only require updating last year's ad, although we have
little idea what sort of response the last ad generated. He stated that he
favours the principle of advertising in places likely to reach "low
functioning" autistics directly or indirectly. Yo also asked about the
possibility of advertising in a new newspaper for people
with learning disabilities (which she had raised). Elaine undertook to
contact that newspaper in the coming week.

6.      Roles and responsibilities which still need to be assigned:

6.1.   Transport (arranging once research makes recommendation and board
decides provider). The board discussed the lack of suitable candidates for
this role, given that all members of the board are unable to take the role
for various reasons. The possibilities of requesting volunteers on the plan
list or approaching potential candidates directly were discussed. The
difficulty of coming up with a suitable candidate was discussed, as was the
difficulty of turning down volunteers who might be enthusiastic but lack
essential skills for the role. It was noted that the role requires the
ability to handle phone calls to and from strangers, having a sense of
direction, a sense of time, a sense of organization, flexibility and the
ability to schedule reliably. The possibilities of splitting up the role
into bits to make it work or considering not offering Autscape-provided
transport at all were raised. The board decided to defer the issue to the
board email list. (nem. con.)

6.2.   Childcare (arranging once research makes recommendation and board
decides provider). The company secretary clarified that this item is not
about choosing a childcare provider. It is about who we appoint to liaise
with the provider once we've chosen one. The chair asked Elaine to take the
role. In the absence of alternatives, she reluctantly agreed. The board
appointed Elaine as childcare coordinator (5 for, 0 against).

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

7.1.   Registrar (Kalen) (registration system, opening and closing dates)
(report emailed to company secretary in advance of meeting). Kalen reported
that she hasn't yet done anything as Registrar other than ask some
questions, and I need to ask a few more still. She reported that Peter has
agreed to manage the registration system as long as there are no major
changes. She would like to have registration open from 23 April to 12 July.
This would give her the time she needs to sort things out before and after,
but she is fine with opening earlier if everything is ready. She stated that
she doesn't agree with having separate closing dates for special diets and
children because this seems possibly discriminatory. In her view it may be
possible to take day registrations later, but they will still have to be in
by 20 July. She pointed out that if the venue wants final numbers by one
month rather than 2 weeks ahead, the dates will be adjusted to suit. She
noted that as things stand she can't afford to attend Autscape. If childcare
can be provided, she can come for main registration on the first day, but
someone else will be needed for any day registrations on the other days. She
intends to keep things as simple as possible, so this should not be a major
undertaking. In a brief discussion it was noted that it is unlikely to be a
problem for Autscape to provide childcare for organisers children on the
first day during registration, as this has been done previously.

7.2.   Venue Coordinator (Elaine) (matters arising, plans for venue visits)
Elaine reported that she has spoken to the registrar (Kalen) about visiting
and concluded that there is no need since they are both already familiar
with this venue, but that she is open to whatever the programme coordinator's
(Martijn) needs are. Martijn noted that a visit would not benefit him due to
spatial orientation difficulties and that he is therefore happy to plan from
a map with input from those more familiar with the venue. Elaine reported
that the venue liaison person informs her that nothing has changed except
the meeting house has been renovated but we don't use that. Also a few
bedrooms might change but other than that it is all the same. Elaine
reported that she has the old plans and that the venue liaison person will
send her the new ones. Stephen noted that the fire doors weren't on the
plans last time we were at the venue and that this required that year's
registrar to change a lot of rooms around. Elaine undertook to make sure we
know where the fire doors are. Trish noted that this venue was a very
difficult place to signpost and we took ages, we need to bear that in mind.
Elaine stated that she intends to have lots of signs ready for it this year.

7.3.   IT systems manager (Stephen) (handover, website updating, proposal
submission system, registration system, anything else). Stephen reported
that he has not had much time this month for this (given his multiple
roles). He reported that Martijn has coordinated with Peter to get the
proposal submission form up and running, along with fixing several back end
issues (Arguably most importantly the donate button). Yo requested improved
communication in this area about what has/hasn't been done. Martijn noted
that a complete handover is simply not happening this year. Martijn reported
that Peter's custom-programmed system is all-encompassing, very complex,
customizes the system on the most basic levels such as user authentication,
and the code has virtually no comments, documentation or other kind of
explanation at all. It's also written mostly in Perl and SQL, neither of
which anyone remaining on the Autscape board has sufficient expertise with,
nor time to learn. Martijn further noted that at least Peter is willing to
lend a hand and get things up and running when needed, as long as he doesn't
have to rewrite stuff. So Autscape can keep using it this year. Yo noted
that IT skills are on the list we are advertising for. However, Martijn
cautioned that the needed skills are seriously high-level (noting that Peter
is a Cambridge University systems engineer) and recruiting someone with them
is very unlikely. Elaine queried whether starting again is an option.
Martijn responded that this is possible but (a) it seems like a massive
waste and (b) we'd end up with something much simpler functionality-wise. It
was concluded that this is a major discussion of Autscape's IT future which
is a big and important issue but not critically urgent right this minute.
The board decided to defer the issue of long term IT solutions to the board
list for further discussion.

7.4.   Interim Treasurer (Stephen) (progress of the accounts and expected
cost - funding for this needs to be requested from the board, actions taken
under delegated authority, handover progress, training needs, contact with
bank/accountants, anything else). Stephen stated that he will contact Peter
for an update on how he is coming with last years accounts later today. He
reported that the process of getting him access to our paypal account
remains slow, and is currently waiting on him getting valid photo-id. He had
no other progress to report. Yo noted that the accounts have a legal
deadline which is not far away and that, as company secretary, she has a
particular responsibility for ensuring they are submitted on time. She asked
Stephen to  keep her informed of responses/non-responses from Peter so that
they are not duplicating chasing him.

7.5.   Company Secretary (Yo) (bulletins, follow ups from previously
delegated actions, actions taken under delegated authority, outstanding
issues). Yo reported that she has nominated Autscape for the National
Diversity Awards which is good publicity. She noted that it would be good if
we can capitalise on this by using their logos etc. on the website and by
asking for further nominations from our members (She intends to try to do
this in a bulletin). She further reported that she still hasn't managed a
bulletin but it's on her to do list right after finishing the trustee ads.
Other than that she has been trying to keep up promptly with agendas and
minutes to keep things running smoothly but is not getting to (and is not
likely to get to) any longer term jobs - like the files - even though they
are important.

7.6.   Chair (Martijn) (road map, actions taken under delegated authority,
board functioning and communication, progress so far in 2012-2013 and next
tasks) Martijn reported that he has made significant progress on distilling
and writing a roadmap, but it's not done yet. He hopes to complete it within
the next few weeks. He reported having got his support worker on the job,
which helped. In his view progress so far is not fantastic but it looks like
we'll manage to have another Autscape somehow, like most years. He stated
apologetically that he is not on the ball enough right now to give the board
a list of next tasks. Yo said that in her opinion Martijn has done an
amazing amount and variety of things in the last month and achieved good
chairing. Martijn responded that it isn't enough and Yo noted that it never

8.      Other business

8.1.   Stephen requested that the research subcommittee investigate finding
a more permanent storage solution than keeping the storage at someone's
house, by the time his term's next up for renewal (Autscape 2014, he
thinks). He pointed out that, last time, by the time we started thinking
about storage we didn't have enough time to actually find a storage solution
and everything wound up at his house. This is low priority at the moment,
obviously, but he'd like it done by the time he might no longer be on the
board to avoid any possibility of a repeat of last year. Elaine responded
that, in that case, the research subcommittee will have to take on the task.

Meeting closed 16.18



Taking into account what is needing to be entered into the financial
system, our general reserves are slightly over 2000 GBP, which about the
mid range of our reserves policy. As such, we want to break even this year.

Our funds can, without exceeding the parameters of our reserves policy, go
up or down by about 1000 GBP, although in an ideal world it won't change by
500 GBP in either direction.

At 60 attendees, assuming most attendees are low income and we get an even
split of single or en-suite and shared, the above charges will give us a
loss of around 900 GBP. It is unlikely we'll get only 60 attendees.

At 80 attendees, with the same assumptions, the above will give us an
accrual of 190 GBP. This is what I'd consider a normal year for Autscape.

While we had just over 90 attendees last year, including children, I do not
anticipate the ability to do a publicity push like we did last year, as
such reaching this number again seems unlike likely, so I didn't set the
costs taking into account 90 attendees. However, with 90 attendees, the
above costing will give us an accural of around 770 GBP.

The biggest flaw with the above figures is that I haven't been able to
ascertain if the venue are charging the same as last time we attended if
the child isn't in a cot, or if they're charging full price like they do
for 5-17 year olds. The accrual/loss needs to be adjusted downwards 120 per
under five who isn't in a cot in this case. Unless we get an unexpected
influx of 0-4 year olds who need beds (as opposed to cots), we should be
able to cover this however many attendees we actually get, but if Elaine is
able to get clarification on this it would be helpful.

The childcare estimate, on the other hand, is a conservative estimate,
based on discussion with Elaine about what the maximum she thinks we'll be
paying for childcare, and assuming the venue will charge us the full 40 GBP
a day. I do not expect it to be this high. For comparison, last time we
were in this area we paid less than 700 GBP, although I believe there were
some concerns raised with the childcare provider that year.

By way of comparison with previous years: This is slightly cheaper than
last year with the exception of single rooms, because while we want our
reserves to stay about the same this year but were running them down last
year, this venue is cheaper, and we don't have many single rooms available
compared to last year.

For a more direct comparison, with the exception of 0-4 year olds and
carers, which are the same, the charges are 10 GBP higher than the last
time we were at Ackworth School, which given that we are no longer trying
to run our reserves down, and the venue is charging slightly more, feels
about right.

I'm assuming rebates are at 100 GBP, and one rebate per person for the
purpose of the above calculations, but obviously these won't be known until
I set day rates, which can be done separately.

The spreadsheet is available on the board list in case anyone wants to try
some figures out to see if they can find a better way that I missed. You
should just need to
change costs on the 60 attendees tab, and the 80 attendees tab will adjust


Cancellation Policy

If you cancel on or before <Date 1>, Autscape will refund your fees less any
amount your registration has actually cost us (eg. stamps, postal order fee,

If you cancel on or before <Date 2> but after <Date 1>, Autscape will refund
your fees less any amount your registration has actually cost us (eg.
stamps, postal order fee, etc). and an administration fee of GBP 20.

If you cancel after <Date 2>, Autscape will not refund your fees.

Where Date 1 is set to approximately two weeks prior to the close of
registration, and Date 2 is set to the close of registration.

Comments (not part of draft policy)

Someone who has functioned as the registrar in the past, would be better
placed for coming up with an automatic way of getting a cancellation date,
or a guideline to delegate the setting of to a role, based on our contract
with the venue than I, if we desire doing that.

The reason for the date where there's an administration fee after being
approximately rather than exact is that it gives whoever sets the date that
year a little leeway in the ability to pick a 'neat' looking date (e.g.
first or last day of a month) rather than an arbitrary looking one, or to
go exactly two weeks, at their discretion. If the lack of definitive date
for the administration fee coming into place, or ambiguity on what
approximately means, is a problem I'd be happy to vote on a modified form
of the proposal to make Date 1 exactly 2 weeks prior to the close of
registration, or to specify a range we allow it to deviate by.