Tell us about the board you sit on and what it does
Convener – Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS)
MACS is a non-departmental public body which gives advice to Scottish Ministers on the travel needs of disabled people. The Board has 15 public appointees (appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity). As Convener I have the responsibility of ensuring that MACS’ policies and actions support the wider strategic policies of the Scottish Ministers. I also provide leadership and direction for the Board.
Commissioner – Poverty and Inequality Commission
The Commission provides independent advice to Scottish Ministers and has a strong scrutiny role in monitoring progress towards tackling poverty and inequality. It also has an advocacy role to help bring about real reductions in poverty and inequality in Scotland.
The new statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission was formed in July 2019, with Commissioners appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Communities.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a board member
Why did you apply?
In 2012, I acquired a sudden spinal cord injury that saw me transition from being non-disabled to disabled over a short period of time. After more than 30 years working for the NHS and at executive cohort level within the Scottish Ambulance Service, my life and career changed overnight. After several lots of major spinal surgery it became apparent that I could no longer continue with my work and career.
This transition left me at a loss with regard to what to do with my life, and my injury and rehabilitation stripped me of my independence, confidence, dignity and self-esteem. I found myself in some very dark places.
To regain a sense of purpose I began volunteering with Children’s Hearings Scotland, Spinal Injuries Scotland and then Disability Equality Scotland.
All these areas were close to my heart. These volunteer roles allowed me to regain my confidence and I applied for a public appointment.
My work with MACS was/is life changing. I joined a board that helped me come to terms with my disability through unconditional acceptance and support. Through shared learning, hard work and determination our work is aimed at making transport more accessible and affordable for disabled people, to allow them the same opportunity and choices to travel as everyone else and also to allow them to stay connected. After my spinal cord injury I became isolated and disconnected for a long period of time and during the transition from non-disabled to disabled I didn’t have a clue how to even attempt to use our public transport system as a wheelchair user especially during the lengthy period I could not drive. This was my most vulnerable and isolated time. My work with MACS, Spinal Injuries Scotland and Disability Equality Scotland will hopefully help other people and prevent them from experiencing social isolation and loneliness by opening up our streets and transport system so they can stay connected.
Poverty and Inequality Commission
During my work with Children’s Hearings Scotland, as a Panel Member and Panel Practice Advisor, I soon realised that for most children and families needing support - the root cause of their issues was struggling with low incomes, living in poverty and surviving a system that didn’t work for them. We were trying to fix the symptoms and not the root cause. The stories they shared and lived experiences they endured made me want to do more to tackle the root cause of poverty. During my childhood I had experience as a family living on low incomes and had an understanding of how this “felt” and some of the daily challenges and struggles. In times of crisis some challenges can be solved if families have sufficient financial resources and this route is unfortunately not available to many.
This led me to the Poverty and Inequality Commission to use my passion, skills and lived experience to work with others to reduce poverty and inequality and give kids and families a better chance in life.
What experience did you bring from other roles e.g. from professional life, personal life, voluntary roles?
To all my roles I bring lived and direct experience. Experience relating to the travel barriers as a disabled person and wheelchair user and experience gained through my childhood, work as a Paramedic and work with Children’s Hearings Scotland, which helped me understand and “hear” about how our systems were failing the very people who needed support.
To these roles I also bring experience and qualifications, including a Masters degree in Business Administration, a Diploma in Counselling and qualifications in Developmental and Child Psychology. I also have an understanding of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 through my work with Children’s Hearings Scotland.
In my career I specialised in areas such as Strategic Planning and Development, Operational Management and Service Delivery, Corporate Governance, Performance and Risk Management, Business Continuity and Resilience Planning, Change Management, Team Building and Leadership and Organisational Planning utilising project methodologies.
What have you gained from your time on the board?
My Public Appointments have allowed me to regain a sense of purpose, one that goes beyond the boundaries of my wheelchair and allows me to use my previous skills, qualifications and experience to help others. My appointments have lifted me from isolation, loneliness and depression and gave me a purpose – a reason to be and from that “better” position I get to better understand and help others.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a public appointment?
Do it – it’s not only what you can give but it’s what you get in return. A life changer for me!
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