The ADHD Foundation is the largest ‘user led’ ADHD agency in Europe and is credited with influencing policy and provision in the UK for those living with ADHD and co existing conditions. The Foundation’s work in promoting scientific evidence, UK and European impact reports and tireless campaigning, have helped to change attitudes and reduce stigma, improving life chances for those with ADHD. One brilliant example of their campaigning was the Umbrella Project, involving children with ADHD and autism, celebrating their gifts, talents and employability and the installation of a public art project of hundreds of brightly coloured umbrellas above the streets of Liverpool and Salford. This went viral globally, attracting over 30 million media hits. The largest provider of training for professionals and schools in the UK, the Foundation enjoys dynamic partnerships with other charities, agencies and businesses nationally.
We spoke with Dr Tony Lloyd CEO at ADHD Foundation after they won The Community Organisation Award for Disability at The National Diversity Awards 2018. Here’s what they had to say:
What were your thoughts on the other shortlisted nominees within your category?
All the nominees were deserving of recognition for their work and dedication.
What were your thoughts after winning The Community Organisation Award for Disability?
As an organisation that has worked tirelessly in the past ten years to influence the ‘national conversation’ around ADHD, we were absolutely delighted – not just for us but especially for the ADHD community in the UK.
ADHD affects 1 in 20 people. Many live happily and successfully with ADHD – but many don’t. We know for example that 40% experience anxiety and depression, that 18% self harm, that over 30% have co-occurring high functioning autism, over 70% have another co-occurring learning difficulty. All these challenges are often not seen or understood by the public, by schools, even by family doctors such is the level of stigma and discrimination about the condition.
It is therefore often impossible for people to learn how to live successfully with a ‘neurodiversity’ that others – and those in public services dismiss as ‘A problem relating to children who don’t know how to behave’.
Our strength based approach, challenges a deficit model of intelligence aim to ‘enable’ those who are ‘disabled’ by a narrow view of intelligence, giftedness, talent and employability. Enabling those with ADHD to see themselves as ‘different’ but not ‘ less than’ – while at the same time trying to influence policy and provision so that the vulnerability is supported – especially in childhood , has been a unique challenge for us as a user led charity.
Winning this award is testament to the fact that we have influenced hearts and minds, we have influenced other professionals and that we have influenced the media in particular, to promote the concept of ‘neurodiversity’ and in so doing encouraged and supported those in public life to be more openly honest about living with ADHD and showcasing living successfully with ADHD. The ND Awards have helped to raise public awareness of the issue, break down stigma and hopefully enable others to recognise that they, or someone they know, may have ADHD so they can ‘name it, accept it, manage it, get support for it when they need it, celebrate it, live successfully with it – and not be defined or disabled by it.
What reaction have you received from supporters/fellow employees since winning the award?
Overwhelmingly positive! It’s a bit early to say exactly what impact this has had yet. We hope this award will make others listen to our message, gain support and benefit from what we do.
We hope also that charitable Trusts, employee giving schemes and Corporate & Social Responsibility Directors will consider our charity as an organisation worthy of their support in the future.
As a charity, ADHD has never attracted popular support and certainly we have never generated very much financial resources through unrestricted donations – but this has begun to change in the past three years.
Most of all, we are genuinely thankful for the recognition and appreciation of who we are, what we do and why and how do it. Somehow, it validates the effort, sacrifice and commitment of so many staff and volunteers. There is a long way to go we know, this award is a wonderful milestone on the journey!
Now that you have won a National Diversity Award, where are you going to go from here? What are your next steps?
We are a growing organisation and as a charity we have a strong business model to ensure our sustainability – we don’t measure success based on how much funding we have, but on the impact we have and the difference we make…
We are nominated for European Awards Charity of the Year – that really would be truly wonderful and help put ADHD in the spotlight of national conversation – so we are delighted to be a finalist and hopefully a winner in that. We didn’t have a template to follow and we have been incredibly fortunate in so many ways so for us we will hopefully be able to do more to help other ADHD support groups and charities across Europe to develop and support many other children, families and adults.
Service transformation is a ‘constant’ for us so we are looking anew at how we improve everything we do – we are especially delighted that the Umbrella Project will also now happen in London, Manchester, Dublin and Liverpool next year – and in small ways in many schools across the UK. This will not only ensure there are big bright uplifting and colourful public art displays of umbrellas suspended above the street in other cities (and classrooms) but also that many children will as a directl result have lessons in schools about diversity – especially ‘neurodiversity’ and that they will understand what it means to live with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and sensory processing difficulties – and celebrate neurodiversity!
In your own words, how do you feel the work you are carrying out is making a difference?
It is impossible to measure this accurately – we provide a range of mental health and education services – mostly in the north west but we also provide training across the UK to schools and health professionals – we believe that ADHD, mental health and the ‘dignity of difference’ is everyone’s business – not just ours. So… we aspire, through educating everyone, professionals, parents, children, service providers, commissioners, so that they are aware and understand the needs and potential of those with ADHD.
There are so many ‘creatives’ with ADHD, so many athletes, professional footballers, artists, musicians, marketeers, entrepreneurs – and so many waiting to realise their potential, – hopefully what we do will help in some small way to achieve their goals in life and realise their potential.
It is more than just providing services and support – it is about making ‘neurodiversity’ valued by everyone – especially those who are neurodiverse.
Why do you think it is important to highlight Diversity, Equality and Inclusion?
We could write a book….. but ultimately it is about human evolution, humanity in its rich diversity of colour, race, ability, faith, sexuality, intelligences, innovation, vulnerability.. and humility.
We all do better when we know better. Highlighting diversity, equality and inclusion is about highlighting humanity in all its glorious colour and genius and celebrating that !
Who or What is your inspiration?
Every human being who carried with them a story of belonging, acceptance, triumph, brokenness, love, simplicity – greatness is not fame.
I personally always remember those who were ‘kind’ – throughout my entire life, kindness is the quality that has always stood out. For me it is the only measure. Kindness is imbued with integrity – it seeks nothing for itself, it is experienced not advertised and it transforms human beings who are fortunate enough to have received it and live in appreciation of it.
What were your thoughts on The National Diversity Awards Ceremony? Did you enjoy your evening?
A wonderful celebration – uplifting; I had a grin on my face the whole evening, my self and my colleagues and supporters where inspired by the individuals and organisations nominated – many who do unseen and unsung work – and this was their night. Best awards event I have ever experienced.
..and very well organised!