interview

My Experience

I am an active Labour Party member in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. I’m proud to have been a Councillor in Hillsborough since 2012 and I am Sheffield’s Cabinet member for Health and Social Care. I’ve served in a number of roles across the Labour Party and movement - in local branches and CLP, as a GMB branch officer and as a member of Open Labour’s founding-year committee.

I have hemiplegia, which is a form of cerebral palsy, affecting my left side. I’ve had hemiplegia all my life and it shaped my growing up hugely.  I couldn’t always do what others could and gave me experience of being excluded from so many opportunities that we should get to experience growing up. As I’ve gone through life, I’ve sought to turn around the things I can’t do to focus on what I can achieve not only for myself but for others. My own experience has meant that I’ve always been passionate about fighting for an equal platform for disabled people.

I have had a huge range of experience in standing up for and representing people. One of my earliest involvements in Disabled people’s activism was when as a teenager, I helped create and run a youth club for autistic young people. Working with others, I realised that many bright young people didn’t have the space to come to and develop and I sought to provide a place for people to come together and thrive.

During my time at University, I was elected to represent Disabled Student’s at the Students Union and chaired the Disabled Student’s committee. I worked hard to refound a moribund Disability committee and whilst I was shocked at the level of discrimination faced by disabled students, by collective organisation we began a long path to better services for all students.

My first job was working for a disability charity, Disability Sheffield as an Employer Engagement Worker, working to increase the employment of disabled people in local businesses. After leaving this role, I became an activist and trustee for Disability Sheffield, remaining on the board for a five-year term, helping the organisation grow in difficult times.

Coming onto the Council as a young, Disabled person was probably as much a shock for the Council system as it was for me. I needed supporting in different ways to your ‘average’ Councillor, especially when Austerity era technology didn’t help things. But I found help and comradeship in our GMB councillor grouping and soon realised that it wasn’t my disability that would define me as a City Councillor.

Years later, now as Council cabinet member for social care, am passionate about transforming our services for Disabled people that need our services to thrive. It is a scandal how Disabled people have been cast aside by this Government and Councils face a tough job protecting the services which we rely on.

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