Dennis Relojo-Howell a mental health advocate and founder of Psychreg from Rainham, Essex has been nominated for the Entrepreneur of Excellence Award at The National Diversity Awards 2019.

The Breathtaking Liverpool Anglican Cathedral will play host to this year’s awards, to be held on 20th September. Britain’s most inspirational and selfless people will come together to honour the rich tapestry of our nation, recognising individuals and groups from grass roots communities.

The prestigious black tie event recognises nominees in their respective fields of diversity including age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.

Growing up in a slum in Manila in the Philippines, Dennis has witnessed first-hand how discussions about mental health are considered a luxury – which is understandable given that there are numerous other issues which are deemed to be more pressing.

Dennis’s childhood experience led him to launch Psychreg, a global mental health platform, in order to address the stigma around mental health. His passion in promoting the therapeutic value of blogging has led him to be recognised as the world’s first blog psychologist.

As a psychology website, Psychreg runs a blog, a podcast, and an open access journal, Psychreg Journal of Psychology.

Leading global brand Johnson & Johnson were 2018 headline sponsors of the UK’s largest diversity awards, attracting a growing list of supporters including Adam Hills, Graham Norton and Katie Piper.

Sir Lenny Henry CBE, who was previously shortlisted for the Celebrity of the Year award said: ‘Diversity to me means involving everybody without any discrimination. It means having integrated groups in society. It means fairness and total inclusion and that’s what the National Diversity Awards are about. Congratulations to everyone who has been nominated. You’re all doing a fantastic job, rock on!’

Actor Warwick Davis and human rights activist Abbey Kiwanuka received accolades at last year’s ceremony, alongside a host of incredible award winners.

Kick It Out, the UK’s Leading organisation campaigning for equality in football, beat seven other competitors for the Race, Faith & Religion category, and Rocking2Stomas blogger Rachel Jury was praised for using her impressive following to shine a light on urostomy awareness.

ADHD Foundation were commended for changing attitudes and improving life chances through tireless campaigning, and Action Breaks Silence were applauded for offering free self-defence training to over 50,000 women and girls at risk of gender-based violence.

Sail NI were praised for supporting over 300 transgender people and their families across the Northern Ireland, and Geoff Holt MBE scooped the Entrepreneur of Excellence Award for founding Wetwheels, taking more than 5,000 disabled people on the water each year.

Radio Reverb, Touchstone and Rachael Pearson were also recognised among some of the UK’s most inspiring role models and community organisations.

The National Diversity Awards receives over 25,000 nominations and votes annually. Founder and CEO Paul Sesay said: ‘As we enter our 8th awards season, The National Diversity Awards prepare to welcome a host of outstanding role models and charities to our family. We look to those who represent progress, spirit and resilience; and I cannot wait to learn about the wonderful work being carried out this year.’

Source – www . Essex – TV . co . uk

An inspirational man born with brittle bone disease has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.

Stuart Thompson, from Mersea, is one of eight finalists in with a chance of winning the Positive Role Model Award for Disability at the National Diversity Awards.

Community organisations and role models from across the country will head to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on September 14 to see the winners crowned.

Mr Thompson, 42, said: “I am immensely flattered to have been shortlisted for this award, in particular for the work I do with young people and adults with anxiety.

“As a person who has faced many physical challenges who has grown up looking very different to those around me, I know how hard it can be to feel confident and not be afraid.

“I hope this nomination allows me to reach more people and demonstrate how it’s possible to live with confidence.”

Stuart was born with brittle bone disease, a life-limiting disability which has caused him to break almost every bone in his body at some point.

He is three and a half feet tall and uses a wheelchair.

He said: “As a child something would break simply by being picked up by my parents or when I was sitting on the floor.

“Now as an adult I probably break a bone about five times a year.

“As a child it was fine as I didn’t know I was any different, but as an adult I had to learn to find my own voice.”

Stuart started his career as a social worker and now works as a hypnotherapist and anxiety specialist.

He chooses to work mostly with children and young people experiencing anxiety or confidence issues.

He said: “You find confidence within yourself when you realise you have something worth saying.

“We can overcome how we look and how we feel.”

He received more than 40 nominations for the award, all from clients.

He added: “A lot of parents wrote nice things about work I have done with their children, the youngest being six.

“I don’t believe children need endless therapy, and most anxieties can be overcome with a few techniques.”

Johnson & Johnson have recently been announced as headline sponsors of the pioneering awards.

Designed to highlight the country’s most inspirational and selfless people, the NDA’s continue to gain endorsements from high profile figures such as Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry CBE and Graham Norton.

Radio 2 presenter and Scissor Sister favourite Ana Matronic will host this year’s ceremony alongside television presenter Brian Dowling.

To view a full list of nominees visit

Source: Gazette News



Avril founded Magpie Dance in 1985 as an inclusive contemporary dance company for people with learning disabilities, developing an innovative programme of participation, performance and training across the UK. Her uncompromising values and steadfast support of participants and their ability to confound expectations has enabled many people to lead more fulfilling lives. Avril has fuelled Magpie to develop a ground-breaking mentoring scheme for dancers with learning disabilities to profile their work in professional arts venues. Her passion and dedication has enabled Magpie to be recognised nationally for its pioneering and inspiring approach to inclusive dance. Today her work challenges perceptions surrounding disability and impacts on the wider world of dance, health and education. ‘Avril has done more to remove barriers and improve the lives of people with learning disabilities in dance than any other’ said one nominator.

We spoke with Avril after she won The Lifetime Achiever Award at The National Diversity Awards 2017. Here’s what she had to say:

What were your thoughts on the other shortlisted nominees within your category?

I thought that all the shortlisted nominees were all very deserving. There was a huge range of a variety of different organisations that all brought different perspectives from their work. It was a very strongly contested category, illustrated through the biographies of all the shortlisted nominees.

What were your thoughts after winning the Lifetime Achiever Award?

The whole thing was extraordinary; it’s taken me a good few days to take in. The whole event was amazing and simply incredible. It was a massive surprise and wonderful to have won the Lifetime Achiever Award.  I feel very honoured to have won the award and for all the lovely comments I have received. It feels like a lifetime’s work has been honoured!  I’m very grateful to everyone who voted for me in the category.

How do you think the work you have carried out has made a difference and changed perceptions?

I think the work I have done through Magpie has really helped to challenge assumptions of individuals with learning disabilities and what is perceived. Magpie Dance works with individuals with a wide range of learning disabilities. People can often have pre-conceived ideas about what dancers are ‘meant’ to look like.  Magpie’s performances by dancers with learning disabilities in leadership roles challenge audiences, and preconceptions of dancers on mainstages.  It has made a difference to people’s lives by being valued and respected, improving self-esteem, physical health and emotional wellbeing and creates positive role models and leaders. It has also helped improve communication from individuals with disabilities and non – disabled individuals.

What has been your biggest challenge so far and how have you overcome the barriers faced?

When I started as a volunteer over 30 years ago the challenge was simply doing the work as there was very little opportunity within the arts to support individuals with disabilities. There were few creative arts actives taking place, highlighting the importance and impact that participating in creative arts can have for individuals. There was a lack of role models to inspire me, as there was not many dance organisations doing the work that Magpie was. The other challenge has been raising money and obtaining funding. I had to learn very quickly how to apply to trusts and foundations for grants to enable the work to continue. I was determined to make it work so that people would have opportunities that would otherwise not be available. I have had to challenge the view that sometimes people with disabilities cannot be dancers simply because of what a dancer is and should look like; a challenge within the dance industry, which is gradually changing and shifting.  Magpie’s scheme, Highfliers, which develops dancers with learning disabilities and enables access to professional training, is helping to make changes. Society needs to continue to break the mould of what a dancer is by challenging perceptions.

What has the reaction been from your co-workers and supporters on winning a National Diversity Award?

They have all been incredibly pleased and thrilled for me. The whole organisation has received amazing congratulations from our supports and co-workers. Over social media we have also received many congratulations and messages of support and comments. We’ve received local news coverage and national news coverage specifically within dance, great coverage.

Who or what has been your inspiration?

My inspiration was initially Wolfgang Stange; he worked through dance with individuals with learning disabilities. I went along to his classes and watched his work and this inspired me and gave me the impetus to start working in this field. The many dancers that come through Magpie’s doors are my other inspiration; watching their talent and skills develop has consistently inspired me throughout my journey.

What were your thoughts on The National Diversity Awards Ceremony? Did you enjoy your evening?

Oh yes! Very much, I thought the whole night was very well run. I’ve been telling people it was like the Diversity Oscar’s Awards. Liverpool Cathedral was truly majestic, an incredible evening. Really great event.  Thank you!

Latest Blog

Legal Legacy

  • 2 years ago
  • written by NDA


Becca Challis speaks to Funke Abimbola about racial prejudice and representation in the law industry.

As graduation looms, and other students like myself face the daunting prospect of ‘entering the real world’, I am becoming increasingly concerned with which career it is that I should be pursuing. The general advice is to think about what matters to you – how it is that you can help make a difference. As someone who is clueless as to what this is for me, I find myself looking for more advice. However, when I heard Funke Abimbola’s story, there was no generic job-acquiring advice to sift through, but instead an emphasis on the values needed to overcome the obstacles that everyone will face at some point in their career, as well as in beginning one: perseverance, determination, hard work and ingenuity. It is through Abimbola’s stronghold on these values that she has gone on to become a multi-award winning lawyer.

Funke Abimbola was born in Nigeria, into a family of medics. At the age of 16 she set out to convince her father that rather than “follow in the footsteps of the rest of her family in studying Medicine, she should study Law. As the eldest child, she knew that this would not be an easy task. She has clear advice for others who are facing the same challenge: “Remain focused and resolute about what you want to do and why. Have solid, valid reasons to back you up.” She adds, “get the support of your teachers. My teachers played a key role in convincing my father to let me read law and I have no doubt that, had they not intervened, I would have ended up studying medicine.”

Abimbola was able to persuade her father, “to continue funding my studies at a private school and then as an overseas student reading law at Newcastle.” It was immediately after graduating from university that Abimbola “returned to Nigeria for the summer holiday and ended up staying for almost three years.” Enrolling in the Nigerian Law School, Abimbola studied towards the Nigerian Bar, as well as gaining over two years’ experience at a top law firm in Lagos. She was then admitted “as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria” but decided to return to the UK, “completing the transfer test to qualify as a solicitor here.”

On arrival in the UK, Abimbola applied to the Law Society to reduce her training contract based on her experience in Nigeria. They reduced her pre-admission training requirement from two years to just six months, however Abimbola found it difficult to find a firm to work with. She admits, “I thought the six months would be easy to find, but had underestimated the amount of cultural and racial bias that I would experience because of my obviously African name and being black.” She had dreamed of becoming a corporate lawyer, but faced multiple opponents, one recruiter even saying that “corporate law was too competitive for a black woman.”

At this point, with others telling her the impossibility of the task, Abimbola could have given up her aspirations entirely or gone back to Nigeria. But ‘giving up’ does not appear to be in Abimbola’s vocabulary. Determined to prove the recruiters wrong, she “cold-called the top 100 UK corporate law firms and 50 in-house legal teams, speaking to the team leaders in each to convince them to interview me.”

In her twenties and determined to get to where she wanted to be, Abimbola did the only thing she could – force people to see and speak to her. The reactions were mixed: “Some hung up or refused to take my call but some did agree to speak to me.” After securing several interviews, Abimbola accepted an offer to qualify within a large, fully-listed PLC within the entertainment sector, eventually being admitted as a solicitor in September 2000.

Abimbola’s Nigerian heritage and her time in Nigeria may have made her entrance into the legal world a difficult one, but she now sees this as an asset: it allows her “to relate to corporate clients from a broad range of cultures and backgrounds.” She adds that “many of my clients had actually worked in Nigeria at some point in their career, making me stand out even more.” Her name is particularly important to this: “Ironically, having initially struggled to find six months experience due to my African name, my name then made me unique and became my USP. There aren’t many UK corporate solicitors called Funke!”

From here, the only way was up for Abimbola. After working as an Assistant So- licitor for a few firms, she was promoted to Associate before becoming a Senior Solicitor at IBB. Soon, however, Abimbola was again facing obstacles in the workplace. She had her son at 28 and returning to work after a year of maternity leave “found that no-one else working in corporate law at my firm was having children at that age.” Childcare was difficult as “flexible working simply did not work when I was working in Central London due to the long hours culture”. She found this an “isolating and difficult time”, especially “coupled with my marriage breaking down “and becoming a single mother.”

Abimbola decided to relocate, moving out of London to “regional law firms that presented a much better life balance.” Determined to continue pursuing her career, her only option was to employ an au pair. This wasn’t necessarily her preferred choice, finding it “a huge compromise in terms of having someone in our house who wasn’t a family member, but the trade-off was the flexibility of this option.” Abimbola and her son employed au pairs for 11 years, and many have become “lifelong friends”.

I underestimated the amount of cultural and racial bias that I would experience because of being black

Abimbola began her work at Roche Pharmaceuticals in 2012. She was promoted to her current position as General Counsel (the chief lawyer providing legal advice to a company) in 2015. Abimbola lists this as her career highlight so far. She explains, “I am the first black She has also received both national and General Counsel in Roche’s history and currently the most senior black lawyer working in the Association of Women Solicitors, the Law the UK pharmaceutical industry.” She is also Society, the National Diversity Awards and “determined to blaze a trail for others from  under-represented groups to follow.” In working for Roche, Abimbola has also found a way to combine her legal passion with the medical legacy of her family. She says, “my father sadly passed away five years ago, but he was alive when I got my first job with Roche and was over the moon. He always felt proud of my legal career but also sad that I hadn’t pursued medicine like the rest of the family. He was delighted to see me able to combine law and medicine.”

Abimbola truly is passionate about her work at Roche: “The work we do at Roche is tudes in of the utmost importance to patient care. Roche is a truly innovative organisation to work for and the world’s largest biotech. I have worked with some extraordinary colleagues and none of us are ever too far away from the science underlying our work.”

Her work at Roche has been recognised by many organisations. Abimbola was listed by Debrett’s 500 as the most influential black lawyer in the UK which was “the icing on the cake” for her. Abimbola says that “it was surreal seeing my name listed with other leaders in in law including Attorney General Jeremy Wright, Lord Neuberger (recently retired Supreme Court President) and Lady Hale (current Supreme Court President).”

She has also received both national and international recognition for her work from the Association of Women Solicitors, the Law Society, the National Diversity Awards and from the European Diversity Awards, among others. Most recently, Abimbola received recognition in the Queen’s birthday honours list. She was awarded an MBE in June 2017 for her services to diversity in the legal profession and to young people.

I am the first black General Counsel in Roche’s history and the most senior black lawyer in the UK pharmaceutical industry

She says this honour was “a wonderful surprise and a genuine shock!” She had to keep her news secret for six weeks until the list was officially announced. She says that “once the news became public, I received hundreds of messages of congratulations.” Abimbola had been nominated by multiple individuals and “over 35 letters of support had been sent to the Cabinet Office.”

Abimbola’s work towards greater diversity is something she’s deeply passionate about. She also has very clear steps that she believes we should follow to improve the situation: “We need targeted interventions starting from school, focusing on bright students from a broad range of backgrounds and supporting them early. Bursary schemes and early outreach programmes that include mentoring have proven very successful in developing more diverse entry-level talent into both law and business.” She also recognises that changing attitudes in recruitment is beginning to make a difference: “Many organisations now recruit from universities outside the Russell Group which has resulted in more diverse talent”, while “other organisations support apprenticeships, doing away with the need to go to university altogether.”

However, as Abimbola states, “diversity is half the battle.” She believes that, “to gain true equality, we have to work on inclusion too. This means embracing differences as a means of gaining a competitive edge and supporting employees so they feel they belong.”

This can be done through the creation of “employee networks (supported by com- mitted, senior leaders and allies), mentoring programmes (including reverse mentoring) and the sponsorship of diverse talent for key, senior roles.” A more hands-on approach is needed, as Abimbola says, “the main point to make is that this does not happen by accident – targeted and focused interventions are needed.”

Abimbola is also dedicated to gender equality in the workplace. She believes that the gender wage gap can be decreased by “developing a pipeline of female talent and supporting that pipeline into senior leadership.” Abimbola highlights that attitudinal changes are integral to developing this: “there are many barriers to women progressing into senior leadership including systemic challenges, our own limiting beliefs and societal challenges.

“To become a senior leader requires a great deal of courage, motivation and self-belief. You do need to master the art of promoting yourself, yet women are often more harshly judged for promoting themselves than men, simply because society does not expect women to do so.”

This is shown in the approach to job applications, as Abimbola details: “Research has shown that a man will sometimes apply for a job if he only meets five to ten per cent of the criteria whereas a woman won’t consider applying unless she meets close to 100 per cent of the criteria. Yet every job advert describes the ideal candidate who simply does not exist.”

Helping women’s confidence in the workplace can be done “with targeted interventions like coaching on how [women can] network and market themselves” and Abimbola emphasises her beliefs that this will “really help to close that gap.” She also feels that “gender based leadership targets are also key”, adding that “what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.”

However, the promotion of women in the workplace cannot be done by women alone. Abimbola believes “firmly in the important role of male gender champions in being allies in championing women for senior roles”. After all, only 24 per cent of senior business roles are held globally by women, according to Forbes, and 33 per cent of global firms have no women in senior management. Change, therefore, needs to be affected not only by women, but by men too.

Abimbola has tried to instil the importance of this in her son, now 15. She says he is “very independent – he cooks, helps me with chores around the house, does his own ironing, walks himself to and from school with friends and so on.”

Despite being a “typical teenager in many ways”, it sounds as though he has inherited his mother’s fighting spirit: “He has been coming with me to my diversity talks and speaking engagements since he was nine years old, so the cause has become second nature to him too, as has networking and public speaking. He has been with me to Parliament and met MPs and other politicians. He signed up to UN Women’s ‘He For She’ initiative when he was 13 and is a male gender champion.” Abimbola adds that he is “always being recognised for his leadership at school – long may this continue!”

Hopefully with the changes that Abimbola is fighting

for in diversity and gender equality, management can become more varied and representative. Not only is Abimbola seeking to make significant changes in these fields, but she is also working for a pharmaceutical company which is innovating the ways in which we treat cancer and many other diseases. Funke Abimbola really is making a difference.

source: written by  Becca challis as featured in nouse.

Legal Legacy

FARNHAM yoga teacher Cathy Richardson has been shortlisted for a national award as a result of her inspirational, encouraging and supportive approach to her clients, both through teaching yoga and in her

other professions as a confidence coach and recruitment consultant.


Cathy discovered the benefits of yoga for her own health and well-being when she was in her 40s. She went on to train as a yoga teacher and set up Diversity Yoga when she was approaching 50.



She now teaches a range of yoga classes and retreats across Surrey, Hampshire and in Italy. Diversity Yoga is only one of three businesses set up and owned by Cathy.




In 2009, after a successful career in recruitment and subsequent to twice being made redundant in one year, Cathy started her recruitment consultancy, CR Associates, in Farnborough.


She has gathered nearly 30 years’ experience in the sector, including specialising in recruitment for the automotive industry.



Through her work with job candidates she found that she had a talent for coaching, and having gathered a wealth of expertise and experience in the field, she began Soapbox, her coaching skills company.


She said: “I have been shortlisted in the diversity award for age category because I help people across such a breadth of age categories.

“Having reached 50 and continuing to grow in my professional and personal life, this nomination means so much to me as it recognises that supporting young people still in education with their communication skills is as important as helping someone in their 70s enjoy yoga for the first time and improve their wellbeing along the way, things I feel equally proud of doing in my daily life.

“Right now, I am in the best physical, mental and emotional state I have ever been. I have moved from darkness to light, conquered depression and now have a passion for sharing this love and joy to help others.”


Cathy has received praise from dozens of her clients, particularly from her yoga classes, one of which takes place at The Studio at Durham House in Farnham, for her award shortlisting.


As well as dealing with the rejection and practical challenges of being made redundant, Cathy, who is originally from South Africa, has overcome more than her fair share of adversity, which helped fuel her drive to turn her life around and help others.

“I’ve suffered a number of very serious health problems since childhood and have undergone numerous treatments and operations over the years. Divorce and work-related stress led to depression and weight gain and I had to turn my life around,” she continued

“Whether I am teaching yoga or helping someone overcome a fear of public speaking, my starting point is recognising that one size does not fit all and to absolutely respect that each person is different.”

The National Diversity Awards on September 8 is an annual celebration of the contribution of individuals, groups and charities in promoting diversity regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or background.

SOURCE: Alton Herald,

West Yorkshire Police has been shortlisted in this year’s National Diversity Awards.

The annual awards celebrate the best of British diversity and those who have devoted time to enhancing equality, inclusion and diversity in today’s society.

The Force has been nominated in the Diverse Company of the Year category, having shown commitment in increasing the number of officers and staff from under-represented groups.

Various campaigns have been run over the past couple of years to improve diversity within West Yorkshire Police, and to provide assistance in removing real or perceived barriers to under-represented groups within the work place.

Last year, the Force appointed its first Positive Action Co-ordinator, PC Amjad Ditta, whose role involves helping to recruit, maintain and promote under-represented groups.

West Yorkshire Police also works alongside a number of national support groups, including the National Disabled Police Association, Association for Muslim Policing, Black Police Association, British Association for Women in Policing, Jewish Police Association, Police Christian Police Association, Police Federation and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Network.

The winner of the National Diversity Awards will be announced on 8 September at a ceremony held at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

Other nominations in the Diverse Company of the Year category include RBS, Channel 4 and the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.


Source – West Yorkshire Police

Top award from PM for Black Cultural Archives patron Brawn

Miranda Brawn, patron of Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives, has won another award for her work to improve diversity.

Prime minister Theresa May gave Brawn (right), a successful lawyer and businesswoman, a “Point of Light” award for her work with young future leaders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation mentors 14 to 21-year-olds through a scholarship programme that includes coaching and work experience. Its annual lecture was the first of its kind aimed at school children.

May said in a letter to Brawn: “Your tireless commitment to increasing opportunities for future leaders from ethnic minority communities is changing lives.

“As well as inspiring young people with your own story, the very practical support you are providing through your foundation is supporting young people to go as far as their talents will allow and showing them that there should be no barriers to achieving their potential.”

The Point of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. The awards will be presented at a Downing Street reception.

Brawn said: “I am truly honoured and humbled to win a Point of Light Award for my diversity and community work during the past 18 years. It is such an honour to be recognised by the UK prime minister for helping to increase equality and diversity in the UK workforce, especially after establishing ‘The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation’ and launching the UK’s first diversity leadership lecture aimed at schoolchildren.”

Source – Written by Linda Quinn, featured in Brixton Blog –

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