Learning disability charity reflects on outstanding women

March 12, 2019

Hft, a national charity that supports adults with learning disabilities is reflecting on the achievements of the women who run, support and use its services.

International Women’s Day takes part annually on 8 March and celebrates the achievements and progress of women like Abby, Judy and Sally all over the world. This year’s theme calls for a more gender-balanced world. 

Hft’s workforce is 75% female, with women achieving success in support roles, service management and organisational development every day. The charity’s recently launched Sector Pulse Check report revealed that staff members working in the learning disability sector prize making a difference to the lives of vulnerable people above all else, with 85% of applicants to the sector citing it as their key motivation.

Among the charity’s staff members is Abby Howard from Leeds. The 26 year old support worker cycled over 1,000 miles to Poland, raising nearly £2,500 for a new sensory room at the Bristol service where she works. 

Abby has worked for the learning disability charity for more than three years, and spotted an opportunity to help improve the wellbeing of people she supports. Keen to fund a space where people could interact with the world around them while fulfilling their sensory needs, Abby and two friends set off on a mammoth two week trek from Bristol to Poland. Cycling through three countries and battling temperamental weather on the way, the trio reached their destination in Poland a day early and used their time there to develop holistic and sensory techniques for Abby to use while at work. Abby is now planning events to raise the remaining £7,000 needed to get the building work underway. 

Other success stories include 38 year old Sally from Leeds, who inspires those around her through her work producing accessible information. She’s been supported by Hft for nine years and has become a vital part of the charity’s efforts to provide accessible resources for people it supports. Working as part of the three-strong team, ‘Made Easy’, since 2016, Sally plays a key role in producing and quality checking easy read resources. This has ranged from policies and rotas to complaint and job application forms for people supported by Hft. Sally’s roster of work has made a huge difference to the lives of other adults with learning disabilities, allowing them to understand and control the information that affects their day to day lives. Sally said: “I’m honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to make a difference through easy read projects.”

Also going above and beyond so that adults with learning disabilities can live the best life possible is Judy Johnson, Registered Cluster Manager at an Hft service in Worcestershire, which was rated as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission in 2017, placing it in the top 2% of adult social care services inspected. 

Judy has worked tirelessly at the helm of the service, which was praised by inspectors for its person centred approach and its success in supporting people to live in their own homes, take part in daily activities, find work and make friends. Judy said: “I’m extremely proud of what my staff team and I have achieved. While we were working towards our outstanding rating, I spent a lot of time researching, setting goals and ensuring we achieved the best possible outcomes for the people we support. We are delighted that our efforts have been recognised.

“Morale at our service is high and staff constantly go above and beyond. Success at the service has also meant a lot to me personally, as I never went to College or University and never envisaged I would have this much responsibility and could achieve so much. For me, great leadership is about overcoming challenges, remaining dedicated to your cause, and being prepared to do what you expect of your team.”

Hft currently supports more than 2,900 people with learning disabilities across the country. This includes supporting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes, providing employment services to help people develop skills and experience for work and helping people to pursue hobbies, make new friends and get involved in their local communities.

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