Thursday 27th September 2018, saw the very best from the learning disabilities and autism sector in Northern Ireland attend an evening of celebration at The Hilton Hotel Belfast, for The inaugural Northern Ireland Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards.

Hosted by Care Talk Magazine, the awards are now in their fourth year but this is the first year they have expanded to include a bespoke event in Northern Ireland.

The Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards offer a unique opportunity to celebrate the successes of individuals, teams and businesses in the sector – people and organisations who really do make a positive impact on people’s lives. They aim to pay tribute to people who specifically support those with learning disabilities and autism and also recognise inspirational individuals with a learning disability and/or autism who make a real difference within their communities.

There are a wide range of award categories available for nomination that represent all areas of support in the sector; from frontline staff such as support workers, nurses and managers, to people and organisations who have made an impact in other areas such as training and innovation.

The awards are well regarded within the sector and are formally supported by the National Care Forum, Mencap, The National Autistic Society, Social Care Institute for Excellence and The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).

Partners for the awards in Northern Ireland are The Association for Real Change Northern Ireland (ARC) and Mencap Northern Ireland.

Leslie-Anne Newton, Director at Arc Northern Ireland, said: “I am delighted to welcome the Learning Disability & Autism Awards to Northern Ireland. ARC NI supports a broad range of stakeholders to work together to improve the lives of people with a learning disability. These awards are an opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that many different people in Northern Ireland play in supporting people with a learning disability and autism.

With a range of different categories to choose from, there is a chance to shine a light on so many different aspects of the great work the sector is doing.”

Margaret Kelly, Director at Mencap NI, said: “Mencap NI are delighted to be a partner in this very first Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards in Northern Ireland, which showcases the best people and projects supporting people with a learning disability and autism. We work with people with a learning disability every day to achieve the things that matter to them, so we understand the importance of recognising and celebrating achievement and excellence. The awards help to profile so much excellent work that is happening across Northern Ireland so that people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to and included in society.”

The winners of the National Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards, Northern Ireland, together with the judge’s comments, are detailed below:

The Employer Award
The Cedar Foundation

Through an innovative, person centred approach The Cedar Foundation go above and beyond in maximising independence, choice and wellbeing for the people they support. They have a culture which trains, retains and motivates their staff who are all striving for the same goal – to enhance the lives of the people they support.

The Employer of People With a Disability Award
Kilcreggan Homes

Kilgrecggan Urban Farm is an innovative initiative that breaks down barriers for people with a learning disability whilst creating meaningful, paid employment. They are person centred in everything they do and are inspirational in their approach to promoting community integration.

The Newcomer Award
Jamie Dunlop & Gary Stevenson, Four Seasons Healthcare

The team displayed amazing enthusiasm for their roles and a commitment to having a real impact on the lives of the people they support.

The Support Worker Award
Jennifer Stone, Southern Health & Social Care Trust

Jennifer spoke passionately about her role but mostly so in respect of her service users’ journey in finding his family. She showed incredible determination in organising and leading a search that after 77 years saw his family reunited.

The Team Award
Tullyrush Team, Mencap

Fabulous example of team dedicated to providing a truly person centred approach. Passionate and innovative, they have provided bespoke accommodation. They demonstrated a genuine commitment to their team and showed that they had a genuine insight into their colleagues’ needs aswell as their own. They gave the panel a real sense of what is what like to be part of their team and their enthusiasm and energetic approach was infectious.

The Registered Manager Award
Josephine Grant, Belfast Health & Social Care Trust

Josephine has worked for Belfast Trust for 25 years and loves her manager role. She has improved quality of services and is compassionate and very empathetic.

The Senior Manger Award
Isabel Kidd, Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Isabel’s approach to leading her team is inspirational. She has adopted an innovative approach to ensure services for the people they support are fully person centred and maximise positive outcomes. She forges partnerships with other agencies and motivates her team to ensure person centred quality support is at the centre of the service.

The Learning Disability Nurse Award
Marita Higgins, Southern Health & Social Care Trust

Marita is the only Learning Disabilities Nurse in day care for Newry / Mourne. She has initiated and led her project to improve epilepsy management for people with a Learning Disability. To further improve quality she has expanded this best practice across the Southern Trust and beyond. Through co-production and strong leadership, Marita has ensured the ongoing success of quality and positive outcomes.

The Making a Difference Award (Individual)
Denis Maquire, Southern Health and Social Care Trust

Denis impressed the panel with his passion and commitment in this challenging area of work and the people he supports. He told us about Jonny who in one year was arrested 15 times and cautioned 6 times. Denis clearly saw the person behind the challenges and believed in him. He knew his supported accommodation was not working so Denis personally took the risk to move him into private accommodation and providing 24 phone support. 6 years later Jonny’s life is turned around. Denis is the epitome of a person centred approach.

The Making a Difference Award (Team)
NOW Group Family Service

Pauline and Jenny really impressed the panel with their true and passionate approach to the project which is making a huge difference to the lives of patients with learning disabilities. They are working so hard in a very challenging environment and have already achieved fabulous results. Through an innovative approach and creative partnerships this project is making a difference in so many ways to deliver a much needed service.

The Breaking Down Barriers Award
Mencap Personal Support and Housing Development Team

Excellent innovative presentation that clearly shows how this project uses virtual reality and a web based platform to take the real world to people with a learning disability in a user friendly way. This has the potential for so much more. Phenomenal!

The Supporting Older People With Learning Disabilities Award
Day Opportunities Team Southern Health and Social Care Trust

This inspirational team of people support each other to ensure the support they deliver is fully person centred. They are innovative in their approach to maximise independence and their passion is infectious.

The Great Autism Practice Award
Fiona McKeoven and Lauren Wilkinson, Reaching Autism Families Together

Fiona and Lauren demonstrated a real commitment to delivering service that make a real change in peoples’ lives. They complimented each other and their passion and knowledge shone through.

The People’s Award
Telling it Like It Is (TILII)

TILII are group of adults with a learning disability that help to change things for their
peers across Northern Ireland. They are creative, supportive and their enthusiasm is infectious. Absolutely inspirational!

The Outstanding Contribution Award
Pat Ruddy, Dual Agency Behaviour Support Service

Pat has dedicated her working life to improving the life and experiences of people with a learning disability. Her current work as a behaviour specialist supporting the individual, family, staff, school and the wider community clearly demonstrates her commitment to equality and inclusion.

Pat also recognises the importance of ensuring that these principles and values need to be at the heart of social care if it is to be effective and, to this end, works tirelessly and enthusiastically to encourage and support her team in carrying through her vision.

Lets celebrate excellence in the learning disabilities sector and help it get the recognition it deserves