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Speak Out Council Leaders in Cambs on awards shortlist

26 October 2022

Six leaders are finalists in the Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ Awards.

The VoiceAbility Speak Out Council work to give a voice to people with a learning disability and autistic people over the age of 14 in Cambridgeshire.

Leaders Anne, Bill, Elspeth, Neil, Russell and Sean bring their own lived experience to their work. They talk to people in their local communities, and share what they have heard at meetings at the County Council, the NHS, and anywhere else they can make a difference. 

Their recent achievements include:

  • A film about how people should be supported to communicate their wishes in the Court of Protection, where some really important decisions are made about people’s lives
  • More films about reasonable adjustments in hospitals, awareness about hospital passports and what learning disability nurses do
  • Developing the All-Age Autism Strategy for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
  • Checking accessibility at train stations, which has led to a Changing Places toilet at a new station being built locally
  • Improving access to Blue Badges, to make it easier for organisations to take people to activities, appointments and group visits

This work has all been based on what other people with learning disabilities and autistic people have told the Speak Out Leaders.

During the pandemic lockdowns, the leaders had to adapt to new ways of working, as well as big changes in their daily routines. They learned how to use new technology, and supported one another to find ways to keep hearing from people.

Now that we’ve got Teams, we can reach out to more people this way. I think it’s great that we quickly adapted to different ways of working.

Bill, Speak Out Council Leader

Here are some of the things that have been shared about the nominees.


She has an eye for detail, especially when it comes to proof reading, and will often say when something doesn’t look right, This helps the team to make really good documents and presentations. She is also good at checking facts and looking up important information. She always adds her own unique touches to group presentations, which sparks discussion and debate about important issues.”


Neil is absolutely fantastic at what he does and he is superb with advocating for people with learning disabilities and Autism. He is never afraid to be honest and is insightful with the points he raises. He is always ready for a challenge. An example of this was the 200 plus people he presented to at a recent SEND Service day. Thank you Neil, you are responsive, reliable and always ready to be involved!”


Sean is an integral part of our team in the Integrated Care Board and challenges us to always think of the people that use our services first and foremost. Sean has such an amazing way of doing this, he always challenges with a smile and is heartfelt in all he says. Sean represents his peers so well and has an amazing gift of always making people feel at ease, whether they be peers or professionals.”


Bill is always so polite, approachable and measured in what he says but balances this with the challenge we welcome. Bill’s desire to always put our Learning Disability and Autistic population in the centre of all we do is nothing short of inspirational. Bill’s sense of humour is always appreciated and makes everyone feel comfortable and listened to. Bill goes above and beyond to help you and will be the first to nominate himself to get involved.”


The High Support Needs Committee which Russell chairs has been instrumental in raising issues that have impacted on people’s lives. He encouraged people to share their experiences of living in Group Homes (and other settings) during Covid-19, and our Healthwatch were able to raise this with Social Care Commissioners so that they could provide better support and guidance to group homes, enabling better access for families to see loved ones. In his activities he is very community minded, and by attending meetings and site visits he makes others aware of people like him with high needs.”


Anne is never afraid to ask questions, or check what things mean. She is great at remembering the details of things people have told her. She is a kind and supportive team member, who looks out for her colleagues. Anne volunteers to chair meetings and take notes and reminds us about admin jobs that we need to do. She is not afraid to try new things, and during our Court of Protection filming she did a fantastic job of role playing with a solicitor she had never met before.”

The Speak Out Leaders – they are an awesome group of people. They participate in meetings, going through the papers and preparing for the meeting, but don’t hold back giving their opinions and saying it how it is. The Speak Out Leaders also Chair the meetings on a rota basis. They ensure that everyone has a fair say.

Graham Lewis, Partnership Development Manager, Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

VoiceAbility is very proud of the work the Speak Out Council Leaders have achieved, and it’s great to see them recognised.

The winners of the Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders' Awards will be announced in December. Good luck to Elspeth, Neil, Sean, Bill, Russell and Anne!