Meet our partners and judges

The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List is run by Dimensions, in partnership with the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) and Learning Disability England (LDE). We have a diverse range of guest judges for 2019’s List, some of whom would like to introduce themselves to you.

Sally Phillips @sallyephillips

Award winning writer and actress, Sally Phillips, has kindly offered her endorsement for the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2019. She said:

“The wonderful list will, once again, highlight the remarkable achievements and contributions that people with learning disabilities and autism make to their communities. This year’s Leaders will help change public perceptions and inspire others to dream big – reminding us that everyone can make a difference.”

Leaders’ List partners


@VODGMembership |
VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group) is a national charity that represents leading not-for-profit organisations who provide services to disabled people in ways that promote independence, choice and control.

Learning Disability England

@LearningDisEng |

Learning Disability England exists to make life better with people with Learning Disabilities and their families. We are a not for profit membership organisation bringing together people with learning disabilities, families, professionals and organisations.

Leaders’ List judges

Vic Goddard

@vicgoddard |

Vic feels very fortunate to work with and for young people. Having risen to prominence through the groundbreaking and BAFTA award winning Educating Essex, Vic has tried to use the privileged position he has been given to beat the drum for the teaching profession and for the young people in our country.

Vicky Buckingham

Vicky is a Self Advocate with a passion for Co-production and making a difference for people with disabilities, and enabling them to have their say.



Marie Knott

“Hi my name is Marie Knott and I work as Quality Development Advisor for Sheffield City Council. Part of my job is to help develop things for people with learning disabilities in Sheffield. Also to check services to make sure they are doing what they say they are doing. I’ve also taken in a new group called the ‘Good Place To Work Group’. This looks at what is happening for people with learning disabilities that are in work.

“The reason why I’m excited to part of the Leaders’ List panel is that I believe that everyone that works with people with learning disabilities that goes the extra mile should be rewarded.”

Poppy Jaman OBE

@poppyjaman | @poppyjaman |

An internationally respected mental health advocate, Poppy has over 20 years’ experience of influencing and leading change in public mental health, with her varying roles requiring her to challenge the public’s perception of mental ill health.


Deborah Brownson MBE

hesnotnaughty | |
Deborah is a proud mother of two teenage autistic sons and author of ‘He’s Not Naughty! A Children’s Guide to Autism.’ She was the Autism Advisor for BBC drama; The A Word, is an Autism Ambassador for Virgin Atlantic and has an MBE for services to Autism Awareness.

Bonnie Gifford

@begifford | Happiful Magazine | @happiful_magazine |
Bonnie Evie Gifford is a Writer and Producer for Memiah, creating content around mental health and wellbeing for Happiful Magazine, Counselling Directory, Life Coach Directory, and their sister sites.



Mark Brookes

Mark is Campaigns Advisor at Dimensions, where he has devoted his time to working as an advocate on the issue of hate crime against people with learning disabilities. For nearly ten years Mark has also worked for Dimensions as a part time Quality Reviewer, visiting the people Dimensions supports and reviewing the quality of support they receive.

Becky Rich

@dancesyndrome | dancerleddisabilityinspired | dancesyndromegallery | dancesyndrome | sueblackwellDS |

Becky Rich is a Dance Leader, Ambassador and Spokesperson for DanceSyndrome, an inclusive arts charity based in the North West of England.



Gary Bourlet

Gary is a Membership and Engagement lead at Learning Disability England. He leads as the staff team self-advocate spokesperson.

Gary has been a self-advocate for over 30 years. He was one of the leaders who started self-advocacy in the UK in the 1980s.

Ciara Lawrence

@ciarale01 |  
Ciara Lawrence has a learning disability and has worked for the UK Learning Disability Charity Mencap for 19 years.

Ciara works full time for Mencap in their Campaigns and Activism Team as a Campaigns Support-Officer. Recently Ciara has played a role in working on Mencap’s current Treat Me Well Health Care Campaign. The campaign aims to change the way the NHS treats people with a learning disability when they go into hospital.

Siraaj Nadat
Siraaj is a Senior Quality of Life Facilitator. He is an experienced and inspirational speaker and works locally, regionally and nationally in the field of disability.

He has worked with the Department of Health, Healthwatch England and is heavily involved in the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) Programme.

Kiera Byland

@kierabyland | kierab20
“Hi I’m Kiera Byland, I have a learning disability. I am a Special Olympics athlete and leader. I went to the SO World Games in March 2019 and became a triple gold medallist in cycling.



Steve Mansell

@mylifemychoice1 | 1MLMC
“My Name is Steve Mansell, I have been a trustee and self-advocate at My Life My Choice for many years. My Life My Choice is a self-advocacy organisation in Oxfordshire and as trustee I have got involved in everything from our monthly self-advocacy groups which help people meet up and speak out, to our Power Up training, research and inspections enterprise where we have delivered training on topics such as hate crime.

Jess Hiles

“Hello my name is Jess and I am excited about being a judge. I love to help people and want everyone to have a good life. I work in a garden centre two days a week, I am vice chair for people’s Parliament Worcestershire.



Clenton Farquharson MBE

Clenton has extensive knowledge of health and social care, and other social policy areas, particularly in relation to equality, social justice and co-production. Clenton is passionate about how we deliver more human services.



Greg Hurst

Greg is a journalist at The Times, writing about social affairs, which includes social care and the charity sector. He previously reported on education and politics. He is honoured to be a judge and looks forward to hearing inspiring stories about people who are nominated.




Chris Bonnello

@AutisticNW | autisticnotweird | @autisticnotweird | AutisticNotWeird |
Chris Bonnello is an award-winning writer and international speaker with Asperger Syndrome, also a novelist and special needs tutor (formerly a primary school teacher).



Arghojit Giri (aka Ron)

My name is Arghojit but people call me Ron. I am a 14-year-old boy with non-verbal autism who loves to write poems and study mathematics. Some of my poems have been published which includes one poem which has been nominated for the Unique Arts Awards this year.

Sarah Clayton

  @posturalcare | @simplestuffwrks |
simplestuffworks |
Sarah is passionate about posture. This automatically makes you think she is dull but actually it turns out that her passion translates into highly contagious enthusiasm. She has worked with families of children living with complex disability since the late 1990’s.

Her life’s mission is to enable parents and practitioners to understand the risks people face if they find it difficult to move and to help put an end to avoidable complications such as hip dislocations and scoliosis.

In September 2007 Sarah’s daughter Abigail was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour aged 6.  Abi is doing well at a mainstream college with additional support. Sarah has three other children, works full time as CEO at Simple Stuff Works and can regularly be found wearing her jumper inside out.

“Since I was little I have been known for being nosey. I love hearing people’s stories, listening to the way they describe their experiences and how those experiences have impacted on their lives and the lives of those around them.

“I’ve been struck for quite some time now that the stories of individuals described as having PMLD are not heard so often, neither are those of their families. If we genuinely believe that all means all, that the lives of every individual have value and meaning then we need to provide opportunities for people to tell their stories and for people to start listening.”