Gill Springgay has been nominated in the Positive Role Model category at the National Diversity Awards 2019 for her work in styling and providing makeup for transgender women.

Helping transgender women with their transition was not something Gill Springgay had initially intended to do when she launched her image consultancy service.

But when a male friend unexpectedly asked her to do his makeup, she realised there was no image consultancy service for a person who was transgender. She changed her client focus and launched Makeover Girl Reinvent Yourself, working with males who are transitioning or have already transitioned.

Now, following 10 years of helping male clients make the first steps towards transitioning into a female, she has been nominated in the Positive Role Model category at the National Diversity Awards 2019.

Gill, who works from her studio at her Eccleston home, says: “I used to be a housing officer for Chorley Council and I got made redundant. I always had a vision to set up a makeover and image consultancy business as I have always been interested in hair and makeup ever since I was a little girl.

“I studied at night school and set up a website.“A male friend came to me and asked if I could do his makeup and make him look female. He came to my home and we had a talk about how he would looking terms of clothes, hair and makeup and. I was completely amazed at how feminine I could make him look. He was happy and I thought I had a talent for it. I saw the possibility of what I could do.”

Gill began seeking out transgender support groups and visited the Manchester Concord social group, offering demonstrations every month. She adds: “I have never had any female clients. I decided to focus on transgender women. There are a lot of people who need my help and I have lots of clients in transition.”

Gill’s work reaches beyond teaching about hair and makeup, as she helps her clients become more confident in their new look and accept who they are. She adds: “I go out shopping with my clients and quite often it is their first step out. “I give them the ability to see themselves as females, rather than a man in drag. They never thought they could look feminine until I teach them how. “I give my clients makeup tutorials and look at their body shape so I can tell them what clothes suit them. I do a colour analysis and as I stock wigs to suit their face shape and skin tone.”

Gill develops strong friendships with her clients and supports them through their transitional journey.She adds: “I am not a trained counsellor but I can support my clients as I listen to them and help them feel relaxed. In some cases, I am the first person they have told about transitioning.
“I have a few links with gender clinics and counsellors where I can signpost people to.

“Not everyone is in transition. Quite a lot of clients seem to be the same age – in their 40s, 50s and 60s – who are married and have had children. “They have struggled to keep their identity in and are scared to make the first step. “It is hard enough dealing with their image as they thought they were male and they are now presenting themselves as female. Even though the concept is more accepted in society, it is still terrifying for the person. But when they are fully dressed they feel more relaxed as their brain is telling them they are a woman.”

Gill has more than 100 clients from all over the UK and has people coming from as far as London, Ireland and Scotland. She has also written various magazine articles on the subject and was poised to take part in a Channel Four documentary until her client no longer wished to take part.

Gill, who has two daughters aged 14 and 12, says: “I was the first image consultant exclusively for transgender women and I offer a specialist service so I have clients from quite far. I have links to a local B&B so people can stay overnight. I had Channel Four filming in my home as part of The Making Of Me. I was supposed to be on episode four but my client pulled out so we didn’t get aired.

“I have been lucky enough to have been invited several times to judge Miss Transliving in Eastbourne and Miss Rose Pageant in Scarborough, donating prizes and offering my sponsorship. I also attended the Beaumont Society Harrogate events for several years offering my services and sponsorship. I also voluntarily wrote regular fashion and beauty articles for their magazine. My service has grown and grown, so much so I have been mentored by Virgin, who is helping me upgrade my website and promote my business. I have been asked to represent them via their Virgin.com website, as they are big advocates of diversity.”

Part of Gill’s aim is to educate people about transgender and make the notion more accepted.
She adds: “My aim is to break down barriers and show it is normal. People who are transgender are no different to anybody else.”

Gill now needs your votes to be shortlisted for the next stage of the National Diversity Awards 2019, which take place at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on September 20.
To vote, visit www.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/nominate. Voting closes May 31 and the shortlisted nominees will be announced soon after that.

Source – Written by Natalie Walker as featured in The Lancashire Post  – https://www.lep.co.uk/news/people/how-eccleston-mum-has-been-helping-to-style-and-inspire-transgender-women-through-her-makeover-girl-reinvent-yourself-image-consultancy-1-9786731

YORK charity Accessible Arts & Media is in the running for a National Diversity Award 2019.

Based at Sanderson House, Bramham Road, Chapelfields, the charity has been nominated in the Community Organisation category.

Kelly Langford, project manager and marketing coordinator, said: “These awards celebrate the excellent achievements of grassroots communities that tackle the issues in today’s society, giving them recognition for their dedication and hard work,so it’s a real honour for us to have been nominated.”

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral will play host to the awards ceremony on September 20, when “Britain’s most inspirational and selfless people will come together to honour the rich tapestry of our nation”, recognising nominees in their respective fields of diversity, whether age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.

Accessible Arts & Media (AAM)has been running inclusive arts and media learning programmes in and around York since 1982. At present the focus is on projects for learning disabled young people and adults, older people living with dementia and memory loss and people with mental ill health, with the aim of helping people to develop the skills and confidence to become involved in their community and have more of a say in what matters to them.

Creative director Rose Kent said: “We’re incredibly proud that our work’s been recognised with a nomination for a National Diversity Award. The awards are all about celebrating inclusion and diversity, which is what we do every day at AAM. We believe that everyone can learn, everyone can be creative, and everyone can contribute to their local community; they just need the right support. It would mean the world to us to win the award and put York on the map as an inclusive city.”

The National Diversity Awards receive more than 25,000 nominations and votes annually. Nominations for who should win are now open and will close on May 31; shortlisted nominees will be announced in June. The judging panel will take the number of nominations received for each nominee into account when making its decision. “Don’t miss out on your chance to get involved and support Accessible Arts & Media,” urged Rose.

To nominate Accessible Arts & Media and explain why you think they should win an award, visit nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/nominate/23007 or email emma@nationaldiversityawards.co.uk for a nomination form.

Source – Written by Charles Hutchinson as featured in The York Press – https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/17653916.york-charity-accessible-arts-nominated-for-national-diversity-award/

NDA shortlisted project, Future Leaders of Nottingham, has helped over 50 Nottinghamshire residents fast-track their careers and now it’s looking for more Future Leaders to take part.

The unique professional development programme was launched in 2016 to make leadership in Nottingham more diverse and representative of the communities it represents, across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Applications for the 2019/20 programme are open until 31 May and it’s keen to hear from ambitious people who work in Nottinghamshire and want to progress and make a difference. To make leadership more diverse and representative, the programme is specifically interested in receiving applications from people who are Black, Asian or another ethnic minority, people living with a disability, or people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other gender or sexual identities.

To enable talented applicants from all sectors to apply, there’s a sliding scale of fees to make Future Leaders of Nottingham affordable for non-profit organisations and social entrepreneurs.

Future Leaders selected to take part in the programme get access to a range of masterclasses and practical workshops run by leading experts on a range of topics, plus one-to-one coaching and mentoring from senior leaders in the city.

Participants also get the chance to work on live projects as a group. For example, the current cohort of Future Leaders are working on three projects exploring positive defiance in high fly-tipping areas, a leadership programme for young people, and community provision for Universal Credit recipients and those experiencing financial hardship.

Throughout the programme, Future Leaders have the opportunity to attend events, conferences and training, including a behind-the-scenes tour of Nottingham’s leading organisations and infrastructure. At the end of the programme, Future Leaders are invited to join the programme’s Steering Group, to help shape the direction of the programme and select applicants in future years. There’s also a growing alumni network that actively shares opportunities and continues to support each other – year after year.

Future Leaders of Nottingham was developed in response to the Citywide Positive Action Study 2014, which identified key gaps in diversity at board and senior management level. In 2018, it was shortlisted for a NDA award, making it to the final shortlist of 124, from 24,584 nominations.

Future Leaders of Nottingham is coordinated by The Renewal Trust, a community development trust working in Nottingham, in partnership with some of the city’s leading employers, including Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, Nottingham City Homes, Communities Inc, Futures and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (NFRS) have gone on to be nominated in this year’s NDAs, in the Diverse Company of the Year category, for the work they’re doing to improve the diversity of their workforce, including their involvement with Future Leaders of Nottingham.

Future Leader April Chung, Finance Manager at Imara, said:

“Future Leaders has grown me more than I could ever imagine, the knowledge and learning I’ve gained has given me the confidence and the resources to develop myself, and also the tools to grow my organisation. I’ve made long lasting friendships, it’s been such a valuable experience and I would recommend this programme to anyone.”

Find out more about the Future Leaders of Nottingham programme and apply before 31 May – link to: www.bit.ly/FLNottm

 

 

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

Young champion fundraiser Louis Johnson has been named as one of Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity’s Hundred Heroes.

Twelve-year-old Louis has so far raised more than £6,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital in support of children being cared for at the hospital.

Louis, who lives in Tettenhall Wood, said he was really excited to learn he had been named as one of the charity’s Hundred Heroes – which recognises individuals who support the charity.

Louis, who is a pupil at Smestow School, said: “I was really excited and happy to learn that I have been told I am one of Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity’s Hundred Heroes. I was completely over the moon.

“I have raised more than £6,000 for the charity now and so far have raised £600 for them through my upcoming walk.”

Serena Daw, public fundraising manager at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, added: “We are thrilled to announce Louis as one of our Hundred Heroes. These awards are an opportunity for us to celebrate and thank our supporters for their extraordinary efforts over the past year, and Louis is fully deserving of this recognition.

“To date, Louis has raised over £6,000 for us and has been so passionate about supporting our sick kids. From tea parties to charity walks, he is always looking at new ways to fundraise. He truly is a hero – well done Louis.”

On Saturday Louis will be walking 15 miles in a fancy dress costume to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, from Tettenhall, in a bid to raise more funds for the charity. When he reaches the hospital, he will give teddy bears and colouring books to the young patients.

He will then return to Wolverhampton by train before collecting money in the city centre’s Queen Square.

In eight years of fundraising, since he was five years old, Louis has raised nearly £20,000 for a variety of local charities.

Louis has also been nominated for a Positive Role Model Award at the 2019 National Diversity Awards!

 

Source – www . Express and Star . com

I am sat here on a windy, wet Saturday (22nd September) in my quirky flat reminiscing on the last 2 weeks! It has been absolutely incredible and a rollercoaster of emotions! I knew September was going to be full on but I didn’t anticipate just how busy it would be and I am super proud that my body managed to get through the taxing schedule.

So, this is what I have been up to…

Presenting at the Association of Stoma care Nurses (ASCN) Conference in Birmingham

This was the first event of September and started on the 9th and lasted 3 days! This was my first time attending ASCN and it was extremely interesting. Coloplast invited me because I wear Coloplast products and have been involved with advocating their products this year and I was also presenting some preliminary research in the main theatre on the Monday. The first surprise was seeing both myself and Steve’s picture at the entrance of the International Conference Centre and other pictures dotted around inside!

What an incredible 2 weeks

It was great getting the chance to speak to lots of stoma care nurses, the companies, charities and other advocates that attended. I particularly enjoyed the presentations that were very interesting around the theme ‘Breaking barriers and enhancing relationships’. There were many interesting talks regarding sex and intimacy with a stoma, bridging the dementia gap in stoma care and many other topics.

On Monday the 9th September I was very honoured to be able to present to many stoma care nurses ‘The Urostomy – The Poor Relation?’ regarding preliminary research highlighting a knowledge gap amongst other healthcare professionals in different wards, departments and primary care (GP’s). To say I was nervous is probably an understatement I think the 8-minute presentation took over my life the week before but I knew I had something important to say. This meant a lot to me and standing up there I felt like it wasn’t just me but the urostomy community as a whole highlighting this much-needed subject that impacts us every time we go into hospital. I am very lucky to have amazing friends with me who helped calm me down and I am very grateful to all of them. I really enjoyed delivering the presentation and I was blown away by the amazing feedback. It was a chance to also highlight that this preliminary research will now be taken on as an official study which is a big win for the urostomy and urinary diversion (mitrofanoff and neobladder) community. Richard a researcher from Colostomy UK helped me with this and when I saw him and Libby afterwards there were a few tears of gratitude.

What an incredible 2 weeks 2

When the conference closed on Tuesday 11th I was planning to go straight to The Academy of Fab Stuff event called Super at Six in Birmingham sharing best practice in the NHS. However, I was very tired and decided it was probably best to go home and sleep.

National Diversity Awards Ceremony in Liverpool

I had a few days rest until Friday 14th September where I travelled to Liverpool (what an amazing city) to attend The National Diversity Awards in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. I was shortlisted for the category ‘Positive Role Model for Disability’ and was asked to attend the event alongside 7 other awesome shortlisted nominees. To be honest, I was in complete shock I was nominated let alone to get shortlisted so, I felt like a winner just by being there and speaking to some incredible people.

The venue was out of this world and it just felt really magical! When Warwick Davies won ‘Celebrity of the Year Award category’ he began his speech by saying “Welcome to Hogwarts…” which was very fitting!

What an incredible 2 weeks 3

My mum was my plus one and was really looking forward to attending. Due to Steve’s operation being cancelled he was also able to attend which meant a lot. All 3 of us got dressed up and were looking forward to the evening. It truly was magical and the food was another level! When they got to the presenting I felt a bit nervous but to be honest, I seriously didn’t think I would win and I was really enjoying the atmosphere and energy.

Then it was my category and I listened while all our names got read out! I felt super proud listening to the bio about me and mentioned ostomy awareness but also the work I do regarding urostomy awareness campaigning amongst the general public and healthcare professionals. As the names got read out, I looked to the other table who I thought may have won ready to clap and suddenly they announce my name ‘Rachel Jury’…

What an incredible 2 weeks 5

Well…the shock on my face must have been a picture! I started making my way to the front shaking and just completely bewildered. While this was happening 3 videos from Steve, Stephie and Louise got shown which were really lovely and what they said about me. While that was going on I was introduced to the presenters of the award Ash Palmisciano and a guy representing the sponsor of that award Blackberry. Brian Dowling commented on my shaking and I also got meet him and Ana Matronic (from Scissor Sisters). A picture was taken and then I went to the stand. The picture below was when I was looking out in complete shock and astonishment where I put a hand on my forehead in disbelief.

What an incredible 2 weeks 7

Once the videos had stopped it was my turn to speak. Well, the tears started and I announced that I was in shock, that I had no speech prepared and instead spoke from the heart. I thanking my family, Steve, my friends and said how this is a win for the ostomy community as a whole and shows that you can live life to the fullest with 1 or 2 stoma bags. Short and sweet but I think it came across well. I then had to do an interview and some more photos where I clocked my mum hysterically crying in pure happiness and we had this picture taken of us.

What an incredible 2 weeks 4

I have nearly died many times and my family have been through so much but to show I have now turned it around and mum attending with me meant the world.

We watched all the other category winners and managed to speak to lots of people after. I met some awesome people on my table iichild and the incredible work they do, some lovely ladies from Safe Haven and an awesome lady up for lifetime achiever award called Anne Ross. There was an after party which was brilliant meeting many other people and catching up with Simon again.

What an incredible 2 weeks 6

The next day I met up with another ostomate, Sue who I very much look up to regarding the work she does with physicians and research. The night before I was talking to Sammy Davies (Warwick’s wife to get a spare pouch signed for somebody) but unfortunately I had missed them but we messaged and met up on the Saturday. It was lovely meeting Warwick but for me, it was all about Sammy. She had recently had sepsis and we had a huge connection and that will stay with me forever!

 

What an incredible 2 weeks 12

Steve and I travelled back to Birmingham and my mum back to South Wales. I was still in shock but I felt proud thinking of the broken, lost girl I was to the award I have just won being a ‘role model’.

Talking at the ‘Capital Market Days’ in Copenhagen

I had a day’s rest before I was due to fly to Copenhagen early Monday morning. Originally, Steve got asked to do this but had to decline due to his surgery date (however this did get pushed back in the end) I was due to fly to Copenhagen and I have never flown on my own before. I was nervous but I knew this would be another personal accomplishment. A blog post will follow about this soon.

 

What an incredible 2 weeks 8

I arrived in Copenhagen, rehearsed the interview with the Director of Communications for Coloplast and that night had a lovely meal with Anne-Marie.

What an incredible 2 weeks 9

On Tuesday I had the lovely Thalia Skye looking after me and keeping me company. The room was full of bankers, analysts and journalists mainly for a side of the business I had not previously have thought about. The interview on stage went really well and the questions although different were very interesting and thought-provoking. This was the first time a product user had been on stage at this kind of event. I spoke to many people and then eventually had to say my goodbyes to Thalia not before I gave her some British tea and made my way to the airport.

What an incredible 2 weeks 10

I flew back through the storm last week and I wasn’t too bad. I have ticked another personal goal off and have proven I can fly on my own!

Back in Bournemouth

I arrived back here last Friday and have been busy with a sigmoidoscopy and some more speaking events this week.

However, I feel this weekend I really need a break and will be switching my social media off tonight and just stop. I feel a bit overwhelmed and I think need a moment to ground myself do the hobbies I enjoy (chess, reading and some art) so I can come back stronger next week.

Thank you for reading and for all your continued support.

Rachel x

 

Source – Rocking2Stomas

A transgender vicar has led a unique project to bring together a collection of churches to foster better diversity in the Church of England.

Twelve churches in Manchester have joined together to form the first inclusive deanery.

Canon Rachel Mann was inspired to act partly following the case of a 14-year-old girl who took her own life after believing the church would not accept her as a gay Christian.

The Withington Deanery sees each church commit to accepting all people, regardless of their race, sexuality, gender or disabilities.

Canon Mann, rector of the Church of St Nicholas in Burnage, became one of the first transgender priests to be ordained in the Church of England.

She said she knows what it is like to experience life “on the margins” of society.

Click Here To Watch Video

 

Source : BBC News

Parents have spoken of their wishes to build a centre for children with autism.

Aaron and Rachael Pearson are looking to raise £50,000 for the Autism Inclusion Centre. The couple, from Denmead, have a son with the condition and want to expand on Rachael’s charity Autism Isolation No More which she runs from their front room.The centre will create a place where children with autism and their families can go to have fun and relax.

Aaron and Rachael’s plans come just days after the pair were both successful in winning national awards. Rachael won the Positive Role Model for Gender Award at the National Diversity Awards after she turned their living room into a sensory space for youngsters with autism.Meanwhile, Aaron won £10,000 worth of building materials after winning Jewson’s Building Better Communities Trade Hero 2018 award.

Rachael said: ‘We want to try and buy a piece of land so we can build a log cabin and move all our services from our living room there. ‘There will be a place for all the sensory equipment and children and families can go in and relax, parents can chat and join in a play session and stay for longer.’At the moment I can only work with families on an individual basis but I want to hold group events.

That’s beneficial for the children because social interaction is more enjoyable for them.’A number of Rachael’s family members are autistic including her two sons, her brother and nephew.She added: ‘I saw the lack of support my mother had with children with autism, it affected my life. If she had support there are so many things that could have been different.

‘As a parent of a child with autism you can feel lonely, the sleep deprivation is awful.’I provide support for parents and want them to know they’re not alone, I’ll never judge.’

Rachael and Aaron will use the prize from Jewson to help start the log cabin but need funds to get it off the ground. Aaron said: ‘We’ve got the building materials now we’re basically trying to get the project off the ground.‘It’s a mission we both have and it would fulfil us.’

Anyone wishing to donate should visit autismisolationnomore.com.

Source – Written by Ellie Pilmoor & Tamara Siddiqui as featured in The News – https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/health/denmead-parents-call-for-donations-to-help-build-autism-children-s-centre-1-8647460

Marks & Spencer has achieved what is said to be a high street first by introducing a new line of clothing catered to disabled children.

The supermarket and fashion retailer has designed easy dressing, a range of clothing designed to be easier to those with disabilities to put on and take off.

Children using wheelchairs, crutches, or who have different needs can now have all the same clothes as their able counterparts, but specifically designed for their bodies.

M&S got one mum, Emma, to try out some of the outfits on her five-year-old twins Edward and Celia.

‘There are around 1.5 million children in the UK who have a sensory or physical disability,’ explained M&S online.

‘So after talking to parents and experts, we’ve developed an easy-dressing range for kids that’s fun to wear, plus the designs are the same as our standard range, so kids have the choice to wear the same cool clothes as their friends or siblings.

‘From all-in-ones that allow for a cast (for hip dysplasia) to tees and dresses with discreet pockets for feeding tubes, the range uses the softest materials, the fewest seams possible and hidden care labels that won’t irritate sensitive skin.’

To show off the range, the company used youngsters with Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and hip dysplasia, to show off bodysuits, detachable jackets, coats, and trousers with spaces for nappies and leg openings to ensure a quick change.

Emma, who got a sneak peak of the line for her children, explained how it worked for her twins, Edward and Celia.

‘Edward has hemiplegia, which is cerebral palsy that affects his right side. He has limited control and movement in his arm and leg and epilepsy. We use a wheelchair a lot of the time, particularly when Edward’s tired,’ she said

‘That’s why this range is great. The velcro fastening down the back of the sweater and bodywarmer means I can easily get Edward ready to go out when he’s in his wheelchair.

‘I haven’t seen anything else like this before – Edward loved how cool they looked. The dress Celia wore is in the standard and adapted range too, meaning it can also be removed easily with the velcro strip. I’m sure loads of girls out there will love to wear it – Celia did!’

It’s all affordable too, ranging from £2.50 to £26. You can purchase the line here.

 

Source: Metro Newspaper

 

Mental Health and Wellbeing Charity Touchstone ranked number 1 for a second year in a row on The Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers List earlier this year, showcasing exceptional levels of representation across all protected characteristics at Senior Management, Executive and Board level. The Leeds based charity was born in 1982 after it was acknowledged that large numbers of vulnerable people were left feeling isolated and distressed. More than 30 years on and Touchstone provide services to over 6,000 people per year, aiming to make the cities they work in more culturally competent. Their strong submission showcases phenomenal commitment to diversity across various topics including recruitment, training, community initiatives, employee engagement and mentoring schemes. Evidence provided is a testament to Touchstone’s passion and determination to putting equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of the charity.

We spoke with Alison Lowe, CEO at Touchstone after they won The Diverse Company Award at The National Diversity Awards 2018. Here’s what she had to say:

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

We were really blown away to be included alongside the quality shortlisted nominees and actually thought we would not win.

What were your thoughts after winning The Diverse Company of the Year Award?

Amazed, delighted and determined to keep up the hard work of making Touchstone, and everywhere we operate, the best and most inclusive place we can.  We recognise we can’t change the world – but we can change our little bit of it – and we will whilst ever we have the passion and resources to do so.

What reaction have you received from supporters/fellow employees since winning the award?

Our staff are really proud of our achievement and they tell us it spurs them on to be part of the inclusion solution everyday.  We have been inundated with good will and messages of support from a wide range of partners and stakeholders who are delighted for us, but also for the credit this brings on the communities we work in and with.

Now that you have won a National Diversity Award, where are you going to go from here? What are your next steps?

We are asking our Diversity Action Group to review the application we submitted to identify where we can improve in time for our next submission in 2019.  We have already identified areas of good practice from other organisations around disability practice, for example, which we are going to introduce at Touchstone to increase our inclusion practice even more.

In your own words, how do you feel the work you are carrying out is making a difference?

We feel that Touchstone is a safe place to work and receive services.  We are passionate about bringing our vision of an inclusive world for all to the widest audience possible – and by showcasing our successes on platforms such as NDA – we are spreading the love and the message that hope wins through.

Why do you think it is important to highlight Diversity, Equality and Inclusion?

Because we all matter.  We all have hearts that can be broken and hope that can be extinguished by a cruel or unthinking word. Inclusion means we give hope the heat it needs to catch fire and burn bright – long after that person is no longer here – to inspire others to do great things in the world and give life to our vision of an inclusive world.

Who or What is your inspiration?

People who can forgive and move on to be their best whilst expecting the best from others.  I suppose Nelson Mandela personifies this most aptly but anyone really who has experienced hate or injustice because of who they are but who combats this with passion and love.

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

The National Diversity Awards were amazing.  The setting was majestic and stunning and we felt like VIPs all night long – the goody bags certainly were popular too. There was world class entertainment that met a diverse range of needs and tastes and the food was scrumptious!  We will certainly be there in 2019.

 

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