Gail Hanrahan ~ Programme Manager
I’m mum to three adult children and my journey into the world of disability started when my son Guy was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities in 1991. Since then I’ve made it my mission to know as much as possible to make sure Guy gets the life he deserves. Like many families we’ve had our fair share of battles along the way but I’ve also learned a lot. It’s a bit of a Cliché but “knowledge is power” and it’s been very empowering.
I’m passionate about the work I do, which is all about getting a good life for people with learning disabilities by informing, inspiring and involving their families. I’m also passionate about person centred approaches and the need for everyone to see people like Guy as people first, not “special” or “disadvantaged” but a lovely young man who has the same needs and rights as everyone else. I’ve been inspired by other parents myself. Hearing their stories, finding out what they’ve achieved has helped me enormously and has shown me what is possible. I work with OxFSN in an attempt to do the same for other families.
Angeli Vaid ~ Family Advocate
I live in Oxford with my family and have three children, the youngest of whom is autistic.
I got involved with OxFSN when I did the first Family Champions course – I loved meeting other parents and learning about person centred planning. I soon found at that OxFSN parents were facing the same issue as me, wanting a good life for their children and wanting their children to help make decisions about their lives.
When I am not working with OxFSN I am a CoDirector of Oxford Arts Consultants, a community interest company which, using the arts, culture and heritage, gets children and adults involved in projects that matter to them and their communities.
Kathy Liddell ~ Family Advocate
I’m primarily a Mum to 4 young adults the youngest who was born with severe learning disabilities, autism, sensory integration disorder and dyspraxia.
We moved back to the UK when my daughter was in her teens and it was through my navigation of the complex learning disability system that I came across OxFSN. I signed up to do a Family Champion Course and learnt so much about how to support my daughter that I have become a staunch advocate of person centered planning and using it to make sure that my daughter gets to live the life she chooses and deserves – just like her older siblings.
Through OxFSN I have been able to use the knowledge I have acquired to help support other families who are facing similar situations. Being a parent of a young adult with a learning disability can be a daunting and often lonely situation to be in and I feel strongly that no one should be left to navigate the system by themselves. At OxFSN we feel every young person with a learning disability deserves to live life to the full and that this can be done if the family also has good support.
As well as working with OxFSN on the Embolden Project and Quality Checking I am also involved in several other projects including the rolling out of the Safe Place Scheme across West Oxfordshire, working on several Co-production boards with OCC to improve services within Adult Social Care, running a Facebook Page on SEN and Disabilities as well as being a parent trustee at Yellow Submarine Charity.
Sam Bennett ~ Family Advocate
I’m a Mum to two young children, my youngest was diagnosed in 2014 with a Rare Chromosome Disorder, he has a global development delay, a visual impairment called retinal dystrophy, Autism and he is tube fed due to an unsafe swallow. I have always had an interest in working with those with disabilities and I feel my life has been guided in this direction.
When I was in my teens I worked for a care agency which involved working with adults with learning disabilities in supported living. I didn’t know at that time how valuable this experience would be until I had my own child with a disability and the challenges I would face. I studied British Sign Language (BSL) at College whilst studying Health and Social Care and I then went on to University to do Deaf Studies with Psychology degree. Since leaving university I have continued my training in BSL and Interpreting. I am passionate about empowering Deaf people and I feel the skills I have learnt will enable me to support Hearing and Deaf Family Carers.
I completed the Family Champions course in 2017 and it had such a big impact on me, it was great to meet others that are experiencing the same issues. OxFSN has helped guide me to “negotiate” with professionals and research/seek advice if something doesn’t sound right. Working for them enables me to support other families and use skills I’ve learnt throughout my personal life and career to ensure others are receiving the support and guidance they are entitled to and need.
When I am not supporting families with OxFSN, I work as a fully qualified British Sign Language Interpreter and I feel that it is wonderful that outside of Interpreting I can focus on supporting families. I also like to support campaigns locally and nationally for Changing Places.
Jo Hoskin ~ Family Advocate
I’m a mother of 3 children, the eldest of whom has ASD and ADHD and we are a military family; my husband is in the RAF which brings it’s own challenges. I work part time in a primary school as a SEN Teaching Assistant, and the rest of my week sees me providing support to young adults with Autism and Learning Disabilities in the community. I also work with SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen Families Association) to support people in the military community who have a relative with an additional need or disability.
I signed up to do the OxFSN Family Champions course at a time where things were fairly stable in our lives, but I was worried about what the future would hold for us as my son progressed through secondary school and moved towards adulthood. Participating in that course has been the best thing I have ever done; it has given me the confidence to make sure that my son has the best opportunities and support available to him and empowered me to share my knowledge and experience with other families that have just started their journeys.
On a personal level, working with OxFSN has been incredibly useful to me as I was also diagnosed with ASD at 35 years old and through my training I have been able to use the many tools recommended to help me in my own personal situations.