On Friday 14th July, over 650 people from the learning disabilities and autism sector attended an evening of celebration at Birmingham’s ICC, for The National Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards.

Guests represented all areas of the sector, including inspirational people with a learning disability, charities, private care providers, residential and nursing homes aswell as local authority adult social care departments. The one thing these individuals had in common was that they epitomised the unsung heroes of our communities. Without such individuals, quality, person centred support for people with a learning disability would fail.

The purposed of the Awards is to celebrate excellence across the sector and pay tribute to those individuals who have demonstrated outstanding excellence within their field of work. Categories represented all areas of the sector, from frontline staff such as support workers and managers to people who have made an impact in other ways through training, breaking down barriers and best autism practice.

The gala dinner started in style with a drinks reception, followed by a superb gourmet meal and a powerful performance from the inspirational Dance Syndrome. The awards were hosted by TV personality Sally Phillips and were followed by more celebrations and dancing into the night.

Support for the event included The Association for Real Change (Arc), Care England, National Autism Society, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), as well other sector and commercial organisations.

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

The Employer Award – Independent
Horizon Care & Education
Horizon Care demonstrated passion and commitment for what they do. It came across that they were not in it for the profit but actually to make a difference to the lives of young people. The company came across as dynamic, forward thinking and the young people they support are at the centre of all they do and achieve.

The Employer Award – Not For Profit
Future Directions
Future Directions provided a great example of how forensic services could be provided in the community. Demonstrating how a culture can be changed and improved was particularly impressive. We were bowled over by their enthusiasm.

The Employer of People with a Disability Award
Karen Smeed Tuck by Truck MCCH
Tuck by Truck demonstrated a clear commitment towards providing meaningful employment and training opportunities. This has given so many people increased independence, confidence and a valuable feeling of self-work.

The Newcomer Award
Verity Steele – Accord Group
Verity had a completely different story than the other candidates – demonstrated huge creativity and energy with within a very unique service. They had to dig deep to find a wide range of skills and an ability to think outside the box to keep the service sustainable for all of the team members that use it.

The Support Worker Award – Independent
Stephen Bailey – Cream Care
Stephen shone out in a very strong field of support workers. He has gone the extra mile and done amazing work with the people he is supporting and given them the opportunities that they deserve.

The Support Worker Award – Not for Profit
Julie Todd – Gateshead Council
Julie captivated the judges with her passion and commitment to making people with learning difficulties more visible within Gateshead. Julie assesses, understands and empowers people to gain meaningful employment and is clear in her drive to prove and increase employment opportunities within the area. Well done Julie!

The Manager Award
Donna McGauley – Dimensions UK Limited
Donna is an extremely forward thinking Manager who demonstrated real passion for her work – she even thinks about her role in her sleep! She loves matching the staff with the person for example if she has a member of staff that likes football that will be the person who accompanies the person to the matches. Dimensions must be really proud of her!

The Senior Manager Award
Amy Childs – Danshell
Amy demonstrated the ability to prove the quality and services she worked with. She has achieved an outstanding rating from CQC which demonstrates the high level and quality. What particularly impressed us is her desire to influence how the community understands and supports people with a learning disability.

The Learning Disability Nurse Award
The Nursing Team – Four Seasons Health Care
The passion and belief the team have brought to the individuals they support is clear. Nothing is impossible, everything is possible.

The Making a Difference Award – Independent
Alex Roland – Your IT Now
Alex demonstrated a powerful range of supportive approaches to connect people with learning disabilities to the wider community including local businesses, safe use of social media and breaking down barriers in the local community. Well don Alex!!

The Making a Difference Award – Not for Profit
Scott Watkin – See Ability

Scott is an inspiration, working tirelessly to champion a better service for people with learning disabilities in the community. Overcoming many obstacles they have trained and empowered people to understand their rights and get the service they deserve.

The Trainer Award
Ali Phillips – Swanton Care & Community Ltd

Ali shared great passion for learning and developments. Through robust training, practice development, innovative and creative ways of working, the drive to support people to improve practice was clear and tangible. Well done Ali!!

The Supported Housing Award
Look Ahead

Look ahead demonstrated a fresh approach to housing and support. They are passionate about the people they support, driving improvement and change and positive behaviour support.

The Breaking Down Barriers Award
New Vision Training – Gateshead Council

Although all the candidates were fantastic, New Vision Training shone through as an organisation that has vision creativity and passion. Congratulations!!

The Sporting Chance Award
Jonathan, Josh and Doxey – Eden Futures

The team from Eden Futures in Stafford had a dream, to bring mainstream football to those that they support, it seems simple – it was not – but not only did they do it, they ended up as 3rd in the local league – this meant momentous changes for the people that use their services, even more for the player that scored the ‘hat trick’ and the other who believes ‘everyone shines like a diamond in different ways’ – how true – very worthy winners!

The Supporting Older People with Learning Disabilities
Arches team – Four Seasons Health Care

This home shone through in a strong filed for compassion and commitment to individuals. Demonstrating a care home as a place to live and have fun!

The Great Autism Practice Award
Tiago Pinto – Tracscare

Tiago wowed the judges with his passion and excellent best practise example, of working with an individual with complex needs and self-injury. Tiago connected on a personal level and the outcome was ground breaking.

The Positive Behaviour Support Award
Ben Adkins and Adam Vincent – Tracscare

Ben is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about his role. Ben demonstrated excellent people skills, acknowledges the need for change and has the ability to implement through is commitment and dedication.

The People’s Award
Cambridge Care Company

Cambridge Care Company is service user led and they are encouraged to advocate for themselves. The adapt care hours to suit the needs of the service use and look at the person, not the label. They are risk adverse and encourage positive risk taking. Well done!

The Outstanding Contribution Award
Jim Blair, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Jim Blair is a true hero of the learning disabilities world who has battled for over twenty years to revolutionise the NHS to provide equal care for all. Jim is a truly inspirational nurse consultant who has worked tirelessly in his trust to ensure people with learning disabilities have equal access to services by improving the knowledge of his colleagues and changing services to make them accessible.

Jim is clear that access to health services is a human right and he has transformed the way his trust works to ensure this is now a day to day reality. Jim talks passionately about the individual people he has worked with and the difference that has been made to their lives by the changes he has made. Some large but many small changes that have made a massive difference.

Jim has made an outstanding contribution to improving the lives of people with learning disabilities!