My Journey to a CBE: transforming care and support together

I am incredibly humbled and honoured to have been awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for my contributions to personalisation, disability, social care, and health policy.

This blog is a reflection of my journey and a celebration of the remarkable achievements we have made together towards positive change in health and social care. Through the lens of resilience, advocacy, and the power of community and collaboration, let me guide you through the pivotal moments and the impact we have accomplished together. 

The course of my life changed on 15th of February 1995, when I faced a life-altering event. The NHS saved my life and social care transformed my life. It was during my journey into social care, that I discovered the potential to change lives. Initially cautious and guarded, it took time for me to build trust with my social worker. I might have been described as “non-engaged” or “non-compliant”, but I just needed time to build that trust and mutual understanding. Looking back, I realise the immense value of family and friends who stood by me, providing unwavering support. And since then, my mentors and coaches who inspired me along the way, showing me the power of hope, friendship, joy, laughter and collaboration. I firmly believe that we are nothing without the people around us, as Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. 

While my journey started with personal struggles, I soon realised that many others faced similar challenges within various communities, including marginalised groups such as Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and older people. I see it as my duty to use my platform to amplify their voices and shed light on intersectionality - the understanding that our identities are interconnected and fluid. Within these communities, trust, belief, and the recognition of each person's abilities are vital. I aim to challenge the barriers that prevent people from seeing themselves represented in positions of power, by fostering compassion and humanity.

My approach to driving positive change is centred on an open arms approach. I often draw upon the analogy of team sports, where each member contributes to the collective effort and I'm not just talking about who’s on the pitch, I’m talking about the groundskeeper who prepares the pitch too. Health and social care are not production lines; they are team sports involving government, local authorities, social care providers, housing associations, community interest companies, the voluntary sector, and of course, the people who draw on care and support. 

Receiving a CBE is an incredible milestone in my journey, and I cannot express enough my deepest heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported and inspired me along the way. I understand that my achievements are not isolated; they are the result of collective support and the guidance of mentors and friends. It is my duty to extend a helping hand to others, and I take pride in my role as a mentor, people to find their voice and become advocates in their own right. Overcoming doubts and inspiring change requires endurance and determination, transforming from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. 

My vision for the future revolves around equity and justice within health and social care. It is essential that we renew, repair, and grow equity and justice. True progress goes beyond equal opportunities and encompasses equality of condition and outcome. I am fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead, and I call for uncomfortable yet essential dialogues where we embrace multiple perspectives and challenge the existing systems and structures. It is crucial to acknowledge the intersectionality of identities and ensure that marginalised voices are not only heard but actively included in decision-making processes. 

Collaboration is at the heart of my vision. We must work together across sectors and disciplines, breaking down silos and sharing best practices. By forging strong partnerships we can create a comprehensive support network that leaves no one behind. 

I envision a future where disabled individuals are seen as leaders, influencers, and change-makers. By nurturing talent, providing mentorship, and creating opportunities for disabled individuals to thrive, we can shift societal perceptions and challenge the notion of disability as a limitation. Everyone has unique strengths and abilities to contribute, and it is time to recognise and harness that potential. 

None of this would have been possible without the support and encouragement from all the individuals that make up Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), past and present. TLAP is momentum towards positive change and together we can create a ripple effect of positivity and kindness that extends far beyond what we can imagine.


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