Learning Disabilities & Autism Real Lives

Recognition for a lifetime championing others

Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who overcome barriers to make a real difference in their communities.  This month we feature Suzie Fothergill who has overcome adversity and is now inspiring people all over the country in her role as chair of the National Association of Quality Checkers.  Recently Suzie was won the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List.

“Experts by experience”, “Quality Checkers”, “Quality Consultants.” All good organisations that provide services for people with learning disabilities will be very familiar with terms such as these.

Suzie Fothergill (centre)

Quality Checkers are integral, for example, to how Dimensions improves the quality of our support. We know that people with learning disabilities see things, and have conversations, that other auditors simply can’t. At the last count, we now employ 56 people in this sort of role. Many other providers follow a similar pathway.

But a decade or so back, where did it all begin?

Suzie was perhaps the first ever Quality Checker and over the years she has encouraged many others to have the confidence to follow in her footsteps. She has trained hundreds of people with learning disabilities to work as Quality Checkers and is now the chair of the National Association of Quality Checkers.

Suzie is an inspirational woman and leader, and a mother of two. She also has learning disabilities. In her younger years, Suzie lived in institutions and experienced bad treatment; we’re privileged to be permitted to reproduce her powerful poem on those dark days here. It was this which inspired Suzie to work for justice for others, turning her bad experiences into something positive and inspiring people all over the country.

“Suzie is a great champion for people’s rights, and she is not deterred by titles or importance. The phrase ‘Speak truth to power’ could be made for Suzie.  She is an inspiration to us all.” Senior Manager.

Suzie has suffered serious illness over recent years, but she continues in her hard work, without complaint, and with her usual love and humour.  A new project, Mindfulness for Life, was the first programme of its kind helping people with learning disabilities to practise mindfulness: delivered in association with Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, it is changing lives!

Over 400 people were nominated for the 42 places on the Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders List in 2019. They are emerging athletes and successful dancers, political campaigners and passionate self advocates, published authors and experts by experience. Several run dating agencies. They are also individuals with mild, moderate, profound and multiple learning disabilities. Individuals whose autism manifests in many different ways. Individuals with a wide variety of health needs. Individuals who have to work harder than others to get where they are because although we have come a long way, our society still isn’t shaped with disability in mind.

We will be profiling one Leader the forthcoming issues of Care Talk, to  help provide a platform for those Leaders to raise their voices and help accelerate social change. But you can also read and all the winners’ stories now. Visithttps://www.dimensions-uk.org/leaderslist2019

Edel Harris





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