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/


THREE influential role models have been nominated for a prestigious national award.

A police sergeant, an MP’s inspirational caseworker and a Whitefield mum who was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 12 have all been nominated in the UK’ largest Diversity Awards.

Sgt Abed Hussain, who has served with Greater Manchester Police for 24 years, and Ummrana Farooq, a caseworker for MP James Frith, have been nominated for being positive role models for race, religion and faith.

Mum-of-six Emma Murphy, from Whitefield, has been nominated as a positive role model in the disability category. Based on her own experiences, Emma has been campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of taking Epilim — one of the registered trade names of the anti-epilepsy drug sodium valporate.

Mrs Farooq, aged 43, said: “I am keen to leave a lasting legacy in the Bury community and I aspire to be a great role model to my own children and to wider society.”

The mum-of-five said “her life changed completely” after she began working as a caseworker for James Frith, MP for Bury North, handling asylum and immigration enquiries for constituents.

She had previously worked at Bury Carer’s Centre, organising various multicultural events, with a focus on promoting equality and diversity.

As her influence expanded, Mrs Farooq has also been appointed fundraiser for Muslim Hands charity, parent governor at The Derby High School and St Thomas’s Primary School, as well as the chief BAME co-ordinator for the Bury North Labour Party.

Mrs Farooq added: “I have been asked how I manage being a British Pakistani Muslim wife, mother, friend, work colleague and community volunteer. To give inspiration to other women, especially the ethnic minority, I recently started a blog of my inspirational journey, hoping to reach out to the women worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Sgt Hussain is recognised for his work to build relationships between members of the police force, faith leaders and young people.

He created Bury’s LGBT Rainbow Walks and first ever Pride march. He also set up the Bury Muslim Forum, which has helped to increase the understanding and reporting of domestic abuse and other issues, and planning the multi-faith Collabor8e event.

In December 2018, he received a Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) in recognition of his contributions to policing.

This year’s Diversity Awards, which recognise role models of diversity within various fields, will take place at Liverpool Cathedral on September 20.

Source – Written by a Bury Times Reporter as featured in The Bury Times – https://www.burytimes.co.uk/news/17643626.influential-role-models-from-bury-nominated-for-diversity-award/


This year is the 10th anniversary of the Autism Act. This was a landmark in the battle to improve the lives of autistic adults and their families in England. In this blog, Arran Linton-Smith writes about his late diagnosis and the importance of preparing the next generation of autistic people for life and work.

I’m 63 now. But it’s only been in the last few years, following my diagnosis, that I’ve felt accepted and appreciated for who I am – particularly in the workplace.

I feel it’s now my duty to try to improve things for the next generation of autistic people – so that they don’t have to go through the years of confusion and uncertainty I and other autistic adults endured, and to make sure society and employers can benefit from their skills, tenacity and different way of viewing the world.

The Government’s upcoming review of the impact of the Autism Act is an opportunity to make this happen. That’s why I’m working with the National Autistic Society and a group of interested MPs and Lords – the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism – to find out more about the current state of care and support for autistic children and adults – and what needs to change.

Take this survey and tell the Government what they need to improve.

What the Autism Act means to me

We wouldn’t be where we are today without the Autism Act. It gave autism a national profile across England and has had a huge impact of autism awareness, making sure that all local authorities and NHS bodies at least consider autism for the first time. But the Act hasn’t been implemented as well as it should – just look at how long some people are having to wait for a diagnosis and the autism employment gap.

When the Act came into force ten years ago, I had no idea I was autistic. I always knew I was different but, like many of my autistic colleagues, I struggled at school and left without any basic qualifications. I was lucky to get employment soon after but my career has been very bumpy – I’ve lost jobs, been made redundant and have had to re-invent myself many times – including qualifying as a nurse, working on exciting construction projects on Ascension, the Falklands. And I even worked in Dr Who’s Tardis!

I thought that I could always interact with my colleagues but I struggled with the banter and often ended up being the butt of jokes. None of us understood that my brain simply works differently.

When everything changed

My turning point was my diagnosis in 2012. Initially, I really struggled to comprehend and accept this news. Everything was suddenly different. I had to completely re-evaluate who I was, how I was and what I was.

But the worst thing was that I wasn’t given any help at all – or even prepared for this period of soul-searching. I was given the diagnosis and then left, which meant I had to completely rebuild myself on my own. I sought out help from the National Autistic Society’s helpline and eventually sought out counselling from a friend who greatly helped me.

When I eventually did come to terms with my diagnosis I decided to firmly take ownership of it and become openly autistic. For me it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Although I was firmly advised against doing this by my own family, I eventually decided to disclose my autism at work. To my surprise everyone was so understanding and people started to realise that my different way of seeing things was a huge asset − I was able to spot problems and come up with solutions that weren’t even being considered. My team listened, we made some small adjustments, like excusing me from attending after-work functions which I found incredibly stressful. And together we were able to work even more successfully.

While I’m now in a good position and feel highly respected for who I am, what I am and the way I think, I know that many autistic people aren’t so lucky − they’re struggling to find work or to stay in work. There’s so much wasted talent.

What needs to change

There needs to be a fundamental shift in how our society views autism and autistic people – particularly from the government and decision makers. We should be embracing autistic people, seeing the huge contribution they can make to our society and workplaces, and committing to helping them to get there. This should be the aim of all autism strategies and it’s important to keep this end goal in sight when working to address the key barriers faced by autistic people:

long waits for diagnosis
lack of post-diagnostic support and advice
not enough understanding and support in schools and workplaces.
If we address these issues, we can help autistic people to take ownership of their autism and get support at as young an age as possible, so they can grow up knowing who they are and understanding their strengths and weaknesses too. Only in this way, can we help prepare them for life and work properly, equipping them with the resilience and skills they need to excel in this largely neurotypical world.

This is a two-way-process and means closing the neurotypical/autism employment gap – fostering understanding between autistic people and neurotypical people. This starts at school but continues at every stage of adult life, including setting up work experience for autistic students while they’re still in school and reducing the reliance on recruitment through the old fashioned job interview, which puts many autistic people at an instant disadvantage.

Any autism strategy, whether from the Government, NHS or local authorities, must recognise that each autistic person is different. We must get to know autistic people as individuals, rather than simply by their condition.
The Government’s upcoming review is a good opportunity to start making these changes, particularly as they’ve committed to extending the autism strategy to children for the first time.

I’ve seen first-hand the vast untapped potential of autistic people. I’m 63 now and want to make sure I spend my time doing all I can to help unleash this potential.

Further information and how you can get involved

We, at the National Autistic Society, are marking the 10th anniversary of the Autism Act throughout 2019 and campaigning to make sure the Government improves support for autistic children and adults.

Source – www . autism . org . uk

Louis Johnson, 12, from Tettenhall Wood, has been nominated in the positive role model (age) category in the national awards.

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

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

Last year alone, the Smestow School pupil raised nearly £6,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

In his nomination, Louis said: “Just being nominated means a lot, it is not about winning to me it is about others seeing what I do and awareness of charities I support.

“Just making a difference is all it takes.”

Last year Louis was named as one of two child ambassadors for the British Citizen Youth Awards. He also was awarded the Duncan Edwards Good Citizen Awards and a Certificate of Excellence from the Mayor of Wolverhampton.

His next fundraising challenge will see him undertake a 15-mile walk from Tettenhall to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and back, in fancy dress, on April 20. When he reaches the hospital, Louis will be donating teddy bears and colouring books to children being treated there.

Nominations and voting for the National Diversity Awards close on May 31 and a shortlist of nominees will be announced shortly after. An awards ceremony will take place in September.

To vote for Louis, visit www.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/nominate/21022.

Source – www . Express and Star . com

“I didn’t think people like me would be allowed into Canary Wharf, let alone work there!” When you know that children feel this way, how do you walk away?

Those are the words of Nilesh B. Dosa, a finance professional at EY (Ernst & Young) and founder of ‘icanyoucantoo’, an organisation focused on creating better future work prospects and outcomes for non-privileged youngsters, a topic which he resonates with from personal experience.

Nilesh’s parents are from Tanzania and India and he grew up in a one-bedroom council flat in Newham where he did his schooling. As is often the case with immigrant children, the passion shared by his family to make the most of the potential and opportunity before them, meant Nilesh graduated with a first-class degree in finance; completed his chartered accountancy training at a Big-4 firm; worked in banking and then joined EY in 2014.

So far, so good, and indeed it is not a hugely uncommon story compared to others who have battled against the odds of their upbringing to achieve great things. However, Nilesh was diagnosed at birth, with a neurodegenerative condition called Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) Disease. This meant, he grew up knowing that, whilst the symptoms hadn’t yet permeated his everyday life, he was a ticking time bomb who needed to fulfil his meaning, purpose, and potential to impact society.

Living With A Degenerative Disease 

CMT is a hereditary muscle-wasting condition which currently has no cure or medication. The condition, which has worsened over time, leads to patients suffering from constant pain and also experiencing ‘neurological fatigue’ – “days when getting out of bed genuinely feels impossible,” Nilesh explained to me.

“Whilst I was born with it, it’s only in the past three years, I’ve felt a significant deterioration in my condition, with both chronic pain and fatigue a daily feature”, he explains.

As a result of the deterioration in his physical health he also experienced a period of depression –  where he sought counselling and psychiatric support. This was due to a “multitude of reasons”, he explained, centred primarily with “worries about the future.”

“How quickly will my health deteriorate? Who will take care of my family and what legacy will I leave for them and the community? It was these big questions that, whilst not welcome at the time, caused a step change in his thinking that inevitably led to a more fulfilling path for his community.

“I have always been inherently dissatisfied – he explained. “I want to do as much as I can before my health begins to prevent me from making the impact that I desire! So, in January 2018, I took a 40% pay cut, went part-time at EY and created the capacity I needed to do more for the causes I love.”

I Can, You Can Too.

Nilesh has always had an overriding passion for supporting children and young people – an area he has volunteered in for almost the past two decades. Before creating ‘icanyoucantoo’ in 2016, he spent 10+ years volunteering with the global grassroots charity Swadhyay – empowering young people, through community-based projects, to foster social responsibility in their own lives. His aspiration had always been to facilitate social mobility and level the playing field for young people.

Having grown up in a deprived part of London himself, he understood first-hand the challenges faced by many children, young adults and their families. And so ‘icanyoucantoo’ was  born out of a frustration, a lived experience and a hunger to change things – because “it is unacceptable as it currently stands.”

Every child has a dream

“I fundamentally believe that every child has a dream – this is their birth right”, Nilesh tells me. However, as he explained, for too many, these don’t materialise not because of inability or inaptitude, but because of a postcode; an environment not conducive to aspiration, to achievement, to greatness.

“This is a modern-day tragedy!” he exclaims in a grandiose fashion that demonstrates how deeply his passion on the topic shines through. “These are limiting beliefs that I simply cannot accept. How do I look my own daughter, Mahi, in the eyes, knowing that this phenomenon exists on our doorstep!?”

Impacting Futures

Nilesh believes that not only what he is doing is different, but how he is doing it. From the very beginning his intention has been to create an initiative that was different to other corporate outreach programmes.

Traditionally, many companies deliver expert presentations on how to obtain a job at a top firm delivered by very slick, very inspiring speakers, but they don’t take it further – and this is where the real barrier lies. Nilesh explains “this programme isn’t about one-off presentations and interventions – we work withthe youngsters regularly and methodically to ensure that they imbibe the skills that will serve them in the future”.

“I am absolutely outcomes focussed”, he explains. The young and disenfranchised who once believed things like “I will never get to work at a company in Canary Wharf” are now working at EY, just like him. Others who were going to “find some 9-5 job” after college have gone on to university. “The children I work with, and their families, have become friends. I have been to their homes and shared a meal with their families and been to their place of worship and prayed with them”.


“So, what about outcomes thus far?” I ask, to the self-confessed outcome oriented community builder.

  • 30% of icanyoucantoo students have gained employment or secured an apprenticeship at a number of top-flight companies including EY, Deloitte, UBS, JP Morgan and Allen & Overy.
  • 70% of icanyoucantoo students have gone on to further education – studying accountancy, finance, law, medicine or the social sciences.
  • 100% of icanyoucantoo students fed back that their involvement in this initiative contributed to helping them decide what they wanted to do next.

Inspiring stuff indeed, and certainly a thought-provoking example of how others can serve their communities with a view to creating impact on the future careers of those around them.

Source – www . Forbes . com

New research had identified that it is essential for employers to improve support for working fathers in order to achieve equality for working mothers. Organisations need to go further than setting policy to achieve this – they need working practices that make it easier for employees to share parental responsibilities between mum and dad. Contributor Rebecca Hourston, Head of Working Parent & Executive Coaching Programmes – Talking Talent.

It is a key conclusion from research commissioned by Talking Talent, a global coaching consultancy leading the gender diversity agenda, who asked Censuswide to talk to over 7,000 working parents about their experiences. Successfully sharing their role as parents is essential for women to continue the progression of their careers and is key to closing the gender pay gap.  But it will only succeed if organisations ensure working dads don’t face exactly the same negative experiences which have stopped working mums progressing in the past.

The research found that over half (52 percent) of working parents, including 26 percent men and 30 percent women, think that their career has slowed down compared to their childless colleagues.

With 44 percent of working mothers found it difficult to keep an interesting job – but even more working fathers (53 percent) are finding this a challenge too. ‘Working parent guilt’ isn’t the preserve of mothers either, and more men (66 percent) than women (60 percent) felt guilty at not spending enough time with their children. And it appears that working dads are finding it harder to secure support from their employers too. 57 percent of all those surveyed wanted flexible working hours. While 21 percent of women have never had a request turned down, only 14 percent of men experienced the same.

Rebecca Hourston, Head of Working Parent & Executive Coaching Programmes at Talking Talent, said: “Stepping up to address these challenges is an important future investment for organisations. Attitudes and expectations are changing fast among young people and 68 percent of our respondents expected that the next generation would find it just as hard as them to balance work and parenthood.”

Sharing towards a solution
The research shows how shared parental leave (SPL) can lead the way. In the UK, two-thirds (66 percent) of working parents agreed that SPL can benefit couples by preparing them to share parental responsibilities more equally in future years.

Rebecca Hourston from Talking Talent continued: “How your organisation talks about parental leave – how openly it communicates – tells us everything we need to know about their commitment to gender equality. To send a clear and positive message, employers need to be transparent and proactive in publishing their policies on parental leave.”

The research shows that over half of parents (56 percent) would have been very likely to share parental leave if their pay and working conditions had met their needs. BUT, half of respondents (51 percent) thought that fathers who took SPL would experience a detrimental effect on their careers, and 53 percent feared judgement if they chose SPL.

Rebecca Hourston from Talking Talent added: “Employers have a crucial role to play in making SPL both available and appealing. Organisations with their fingers on the pulse need to encourage both men and women to view SPL in a more positive light by demonstrating that with the right support, the relationship between parenthood and professional success can be mutually beneficial.”

Practice what you promise…
Where do organisations start? The new research points them in the right direction. More than half of working parents (53 percent) experienced a significant gap between what their workplace says it’s doing and what it’s actually doing; around half of that group (26 percent of the total) made this point strongly.

One in three parents surveyed, struggled to understand their company’s policy on parental leave for example. Rebecca Hourston from Talking Talent said: “By debunking tired myths about theoretical losses of skills or the supposed dangers of flexible working, this report challenges all types of organisations to close the gap between their policies for supporting working parents and their actual, ongoing practices. Achieving this will be a vital step towards truly inclusive behaviour.”


Source – The HR Director

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.


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!

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