Lorraine Gradwell, MBE, FRSA, FCIM, MA.
Having had an impairment since early childhood I have lived all my life with disability: I use a powered wheelchair, am married with two grown children and have been lucky to work all my life, apart from a break to have my children. In short, I trained and worked as a fashion designer, went to work in a Job Centre, had my children, then worked in the voluntary and public sectors. In amongst all this I represented England in the New Zealand Commonwealth Games (this dates me!) where I won a gold medal on the track, and swam for GB at Stoke Mandeville where I held GB national records in the pool for several years. As a rather mature student I also found time to do my MA in Disability Studies at Leeds University. More recently, for 15 years I was the Chief Executive of Breakthrough UK Ltd (B-UK), a leading disabled people’s organisation, recently being semi retired following a heart attack and now acting as Strategic Policy Advisor to their Board.
I have a long history of involvement in disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) having been a founder member of the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) and making early contributions to the development of the Leicester, Glasgow and Birmingham Coalitions, and more recently the Trafford CIL. For many years I have been involved in Manchester strategic partnerships and currently sit on the Manchester Leaders Forum, which has oversight of all strategic developments.
I have sat on a range of government committees, including the Disability Employment Advisory Committee (DEAC), the Small Business Council (SBC) where I was the ‘disability champion’ and the national Right to Control Advisory Group. In 2009 I was the disability advisor to the Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation, which reported to Parliament in January 2010. Also in 2010 I was awarded the MBE for services to disabled people in Greater Manchester.
In setting up and running B-UK I developed many networks and now in semi retirement I find them very useful for keeping in touch locally, regionally and nationally. They have led, for example, to my being invited to write a monthly blog for the Disability Horizons website, and to write the very first piece for the Authors of Our Lives – the independent living debate blogspot. I also have my own blog, write occasional blogs for B-UK and I maintain my position as a refereeing editor of the influential publication Disability and Society.
I have been immersed in the development of person-centred thinking and planning in the UK over the last twenty years. I am passionate about person-centred practices. I was the Department of Health’s expert advisor on person-centred approaches to the Valuing People Support and Putting People First Teams. I co-authored the first Department of Health Guidance on person-centred planning, and the 2010 guidance ‘Personalisation through person-centred planning’. My PhD is on person-centred planning and organisational change and I have written over fifteen books on person-centred thinking, planning, community and personalisation.
I started off working in health as an occupational therapist, and then in social care for over 30 years. Now I lead Helen Sanderson Associates, a social enterprise; am a founder member of charity Community Circles; and chair of the H S A Foundation. Helen Sanderson Associates developed one-page profiles, person-centred reviews, and Working Together for Change – examples of co-production at both an individual and organisation or system level. We have led many of developments in care and support planning in health and social care. Community Circles are a charity exploring how to create circles of support at scale, using person-centred practices, so that everyone can benefit (www.community-circles.co.uk). They are funded through the H S A Foundation.
I live in Heaton Moor with Andy and I have three daughters, Ellie, Laura and Kate. Although I am a black belt in karate, I now try to spend more time doing yoga, and am learning mindfulness.