Please complete this sentence: I didn’t get where I am today without… a jolly good argument. I have always swum against the tide of cultural expectation with regard to disabled people’s lives. To make headway I have had to muster strong arguments, drawing on the experience, knowledge and intellectual strength of the disabled people’s movement. My capacity to argue my way into the social, economic and political debate is fuelled by those who try to stop me.
Who has most inspired you in your career?
Professor Michael Oliver, for his work on the social model. It changed my life and liberated thousands of disabled people.
How would you like your professional contribution to be remembered?
For making the seemingly impossible happen. When people say “you cannot be serious”, I know I am moving the right way.
What has been your worst mistake?
Putting work before family and friends too many times. It is easy to get the work-life balance completely out of kilter. For me, my family and friends are invaluable critics.
What motivates you most?
Social injustice. My passion is ignited when the prevailing culture disempowers people who are different. It is very hard to do something constructive which may make a difference when one is overwhelmed by the enormity of universal oppression. I can only remain motivated by tackling a centimetre at a time.
How do you get your own way?
It’s not about getting your own way. It’s about explaining your reasons in a way that people can hear. In order for people to learn and grow, they need to feel the arguments. I hope I am also willing to be persuaded by the arguments of others.
What’s the secret of leading change in an organisation?
Organisations are made of people, so shared vision is essential for clarity of purpose. Establishing structures for sharing knowledge and wisdom as part of the culture is the secret of success.
What’s the single biggest danger facing social care?
Leaving the reform of social care to the old “producers” to define and deliver. If we are not to default back to old work modes we must risk introducing new people and leadership styles into the “inner circle”. Social care is about supporting difference.