Friday 28th June 2019 saw the very best from the learning disabilities and autism sector in England and Scotland attend an evening of celebration at The ICC Birmingham, for this year’s Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards.

Hosted by Care Talk Magazine and sponsored by National Care Group, the awards are now in their fifth year and have also expanded to include bespoke events in Wales and Northern Ireland. The evening was compered by Steve Walls and guests we treated to an uplifting performance by DanceSyndrome. The awards were presented by campaigner and actor, Sally Phillips.  This year’s charity partner is The Community Integrated Care Learning  Disabilities Super League, in partnership with the Rugby League.

The Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards offer a unique opportunity to celebrate the successes of individuals, teams and businesses in the learning disabilities and autism 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).

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive at Care England, said: “Supporting people with learning disabilities and autism is one of the most complex and challenging areas of social care, but it is also incredibly rewarding and I am delighted that The Learning Disability and Autism awards will give an opportunity for the tremendous commitment of staff in this sector to be acknowledged and recognised with these prestigious awards”

Carol Povey, the Director of the Centre for Autism at the National Autistic Society, said: “The National Autistic Society is very proud to be supporting these awards which highlight the difference great practitioners can make to people’s lives. These awards recognise excellence across all aspects of autism and learning disability support and provision, and draw attention to the great work which goes on day in and day out. Its really fabulous to be part of this celebration, and I wish everyone the best of luck. ”

Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the National Care Forum, said: “The National Care Forum are delighted to support the Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards 2019. These awards provide an excellent opportunity for people who use services, carers and providers to come together and celebrate the ongoing achievements and developments of individuals and organisations – and spread the word about just what a difference great care and support can make. “

The winners of together with the judge’s comments, are detailed below:

The Employer Award
The Esland Group

The team from Esland impressed the judges with their passion and drive. They demonstrated that despite continued growth, they have very much kept their vision and values at the heart of everything. They place enormous emphasis on valuing staff and have recently been awarded the Investors in People Gold Standard Award.

Employer of People with a Disability Award
Stephen Bygrave, StedyChefs Learning Centre

StedyChefs need to be commended for the work they do. This organisation is committed to giving people the training, skills and confidence to work and flourish in real life situations. Through positive risk taking and embedding a ‘can do’ attitude, StedyChefs is supporting individuals with learning disabilities to continually grow, develop and thrive within the community.

The Newcomer Award
Carl Gaskin, Camphill Village Trust

Carl has found his true vocation in life. He is steadily overcoming barriers in supporting individuals with complex roads to live fulfilling lives. When Carl spoke about the individual, he supports his face lit up the room. True passion and commitment!

The Support Worker Award (Independent)
Emmanuel Uwimana, Consensus Support Services Limited

This was a highly competitive category with all the nominees impressing the judges with their dedication and commitment to people with learning disabilities, making this a very difficult decision for the judges as all nominees would be worthy winners. However, the judges were particularly impressed with Emmanuel’s person-centered and compassionate approach to service users. Emmanuel demonstrated a natural affinity to people with learning difficulties and is a shining example to other support workers.

The Support Worker Award (Not for Profit)
Anthony Harkin, Real Life Options

An Active Support Champion within his service Anthony goes above and beyond to ensure the people he supports live life to the full and are empowered to achieve their goals. A dedicated and inspirational professional!

The Complex Support Worker Award
Katie Marshall, MacIntyre

If you were to mold the perfect support worker Katie would be it. She embodies everything that a fantastic support worker should be. With 18 years working with the same group of people under her belt, her enthusiastic approach means she is constantly looking for new ways to add meaning, fun and quality to their lives. Katie understands what matters, both for the people she supports as well as her colleagues. We’d all love to have Katie on our team – she just oozes trust and compassion!

The Team Award
Selwyn House, Discovery

A long-standing care team who have embraced significant change and work in a way that has made life changing opportunities for people in their care.

The Manager Award
Paul White, Horizon Care and Education Group

It was clear within the first few minutes just how much Paul loves his job, his team and the young people he supports. Paul is very passionate about everything autism. He’s dedicated in delivering positive outcomes and developing lifelong partnerships.

The Frontline Leader Award
Natalie Rawson, Hesley Village

Natalie’s caring nature and commitment to the people she supports came across naturally. Natalie was incredibly focused on providing a supportive and person-centered environment that encouraged the people she supports. She demonstrated commitment to staff development, openness and supportive leadership.

The Senior Manager Award
Alison O’Meara, Precious Homes

Alison has worked for number of leading care providers and chose Precious Homes due to the similarities in their values. This represented in the brilliant work both Alison and Precious Homes are doing within the learning disability and autism field. Congratulations and keep up the good work!!

The Learning Disability Nurse Award
Paula Pearl and Jean Kendall, EPUT

Jean and Paula are passionate about driving positive practice. Not only by working with individuals, but their innovative style and approach is embedding systematic culture change across their area, to improve health and raise awareness about oral hygiene. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

The Making a Difference Award (Independent)
Amanda Kennedy, Consensus Support Services Ltd

Amanda came across as someone who was dedicated to empowering the people she is supporting to succeed, achieve and meet their outcomes.

The Making a Difference Award (Not for Profit)
Ruth Harrison and Paula Evans, Kings Mill hospital / Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Ruth and Paula have collaborated to reduce deaths of vulnerable adults with sepsis in their hospital. This is now being rolled out naturally in the NHS.

The Trainer Award
Sally Harvey, Accomplish Group

Sally is an experienced trainer who has worked at all levels permitting her to draw upon valuable examples and experience to strengthen her training. Sally brings a different approach which brings a mixture of techniques supporting independence in all aspects of a person’s life. Very inspirational Sally!

The Supported Housing Award
Active Prospects, Active Prospects

Active Prospects demonstrated true person-centered values in involving people in developing and planning accommodation solutions. They clearly demonstrated excellent and meaningful service user engagement at all levels at the organization. They have developed and use outstanding partnership worthy with the people they support, families, and professionals.

The Breaking Down Barriers Award
Gemma Clark, Elysium Healthcare

The judges felt that Gemma had gone personally above and beyond to identify the needs of everyone. Centering the needs of each person, her innovation has proven successful in eliminating communication struggles and enriching the lives of the people she works with.

The Sporting Chance Award
Maddy Ford, The Change Foundation

Maddy runs a project called Girls Win which encourages young female participants in sport. Her passion for removing social isolation and encouraging participants in sport is amazing.

The Supporting Older People with Learning Disabilities
Tony Simons, Affinity Trust

Tony impressed in the manners in which he described how, as a team, they went the extra mile. Tony spoke passionately and in a personalised way about the people supported, and the focus on getting it right, with honesty. He always ensures his team are well supported.

The Great Autism Practice Award
Affinity Trust Adam’s Core Support Team, Affinity Trust

A fantastic team, making real changes. Their passion for making a difference really shone through and they have a positive outlook to life achieving excellent outcomes. This outstanding team demonstrate the true meaning of care, whilst remembering to laugh, smile and have fun.

Positive Behavior Support Award
Somerset Progressive School, Keys Group

An inspirational team, who are highly motivated and display a depth of knowledge amongst the team in a rural setting. The team ensure the pupils, families and the MDT are involved in a range of interventions to support learning and development. The curriculum is flexible and is person centered. The achievements are outstanding.

The People’s Award (Individual)
Maria Spencer, Sanctuary Supported Living

Through her own determination and with the people supporting her Maria has transformed her life, by overcoming adversity and has continued to flourish. Maria is an extremely compassionate and caring individual, now using all of her own time to motivate and influence the people around her to achieve outcomes and bring joy to their lives.

People’s Award (Team)


An outstanding group of individuals that bring people from all diversities together. DanceSyndrome gives people the opportunity to grow and develop relationships, as well as to be a part of something meaningful. An inclusive group that welcomes all, transforming the lives of all who join, and empowering some individuals to become dance leaders.

The Outstanding Contribution Award
Jane Montrose, Apple House Ltd

Jane is impressive both on paper and in person. What shone through was her compassion and passion for her business and supporting the vulnerable people in her homes. She has the perfect blend of qualities that we look for in a provider at Shawbrook Bank: Behaviour, strategy, experience and commercial acumen. A clear winner.

The Lifetime Achievement Award
Sue Hatton, Accomplish Group

In the words of the team that nominated Sue:

“Sue is a lecturer, mentor, supervisor, author and Autism Advisor with over 35 years’ experience within the field of Autism and through publication, presentation, teaching and one-to-one support to countless individuals, has changed care professionals and the public’s understanding of Autism. She is currently working alongside staff to support over 200 autistic adults within residential and supported living settings. Annually Sue also visits Ghana in West Africa to help care givers in a community, understand autism. She offers staff training and spends time with autistic individuals. This summer will be her seventh visit. Sue has co-authored the first of four of her books with an autistic individual. One of her books “Choice and control the autism friendly way”, is a passionate book with a simple yet profound message on how autistic people voices need to be heard.

She has been instrumental in developing and implementing our Autism Strategy and best practice internal kitemark scheme. The aim is for staff to move from becoming autism aware, to working in an autism friendly way and eventually becoming what she calls “autism intelligent.” She is always looking at ways to promote Autism awareness, she hosts events to help educate and inform others. She actively has contributed to resource days, conferences and internal best practice days. These events are informative and innovative, the information and knowledge care professionals receive is invaluable and will continue to benefit others.

Sue is exceptional, inspiring staff to become Autism Champions with reinforced learning. She supports staff in dealing with difficult and sometimes very challenging situations. Her passion and drive are clear to all, she wants everyone to understand the importance of supporting people with Autism in a respectful, Autism friendly and intelligent way. She strives to continue to make a difference to the lives of everyone she supports.”