National Autistic Society appoints new chief executive

Caroline Stevens, who has an autistic son, will take over in November after six years at the children's charity KIDS

Caroline Stevens
Caroline Stevens

Caroline Stevens has been appointed as the new chief executive of the National Autistic Society.

Stevens was previously chief executive of the disabled children and young person’s charity KIDS, a role she held for six years.

She will join the National Autistic Society in November. KIDS has begun recruiting for a replacement chief executive.

Mark Lever, the National Autistic Society’s previous chief executive, left his role in May after 11 years at the helm to lead the community interest company Helpforce

Stevens has a son with autism and a learning disability, statements from the charities said, and has been a member of the National Autistic Society for approximately 20 years.

In a letter posted on the National Autistic Society’s website, Stevens said she was planning to spend her first few months in the role meeting beneficiaries, campaigners, staff and volunteers.

"I am acutely aware of the gaps in support for autistic people," the letter says. "One of my three children is autistic and has a learning disability. Far too often, we have had to battle to get essential services for him so that he can enjoy things in life that the vast majority of people take for granted.

"Like any parent, I want him to have the chance to live independently, and I am devastated that for too many autistic adults this isn’t the case.

"But I am also hopeful that we at the National Autistic Society can play a part in resolving these challenges and making society work far better for autistic people."

The National Autistic Society had an income of £96.1m and spent £95.7m in the year to 31 March 2018, the Charity Commission website shows, and employs more than 3,100 people.

Dr Carol Homden, chair of the National Autistic Society, said: "Caroline’s exceptional experience as a leader in the charity and health sectors, combined with her own direct experience supporting her autistic son and being a member of our charity for 20 years, means she brings both new insight and grounded understanding of the day-to-day experiences of autistic people and their families to lead our charity for the future."

Stephen Unwin, chair of KIDS, said: "Caroline has been a remarkable chief executive. I congratulate her on this appointment and wish her every success."

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