Honorary Doctorate for learning disability campaigner, advocate and Dimensions colleague

“They always told me that I would never amount to anything. I was told that I would be dead before I was 18”. Fast forward to today and anybody who knows Mark knows that is just not true. They know he’s very much alive, kicking and fighting for a better society.

Mark is our Campaigns Advisor and helps lead our campaign against learning disability and autism hate crime – #ImWithSam.

Yesterday he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law from the University of Kent; one of the first people in the country who has a learning disability to receive such an award.

Mark Brookes, sorry; Dr Mark Brookes, is a national advocate for people with learning disabilities. He’s dedicated his life to defending equality and showing people exactly what needs to be done for a fairer, more inclusive society.

Watch his acceptance speech

Growing up he was bullied, belittled and berated. He was shifted from school to school when he didn’t meet their academic expectations or when bullies proved too difficult to subdue. Mark being Mark, he always found ways to build his confidence but ultimately didn’t receive the right support and left academia without qualifications.

At home, he was treated like a slave. His father died when he was young and under the care of his mother and stepfather he was abused. They told him he had a metal plate in his head and would die by aged 18. They used him to complete chores and claim his benefit money. They offered no support to give the Mark we know the opportunity to flourish and become this force of good.

Thankfully, he wasn’t completely alone. His grandmother and siblings helped as best they could.

Mark with friends, family and colleagues.

“My grandmother was a light in my life. She was like a mum to me. She died in 2013 and I miss her every day”

With support from his brother and sister, he made it to London. He lived with his brother and; “with his support, I started to make a life for myself.”

He helped set up a People First Group – an important group run by and for people with learning disabilities. Here he was supported to speak up and helped others share their stories too.

With a strong work ethic, Mark relentlessly applied for jobs. 150 applications later he was left unemployed and deflated.

Perhaps the world just wasn’t ready for Mark Brookes?

Dimensions certainly was. He joined us 10 years ago as a Quality Checker and has been climbing the ladder ever since. Now he’s our Campaigns Advisor and it isn’t uncommon to see or hear him in national media, speaking at Parliament or hearing his messages through the grapevine.

Mark has helped change the law on decision-making for disabled people, spoken at conferences across the world and trained more than 1,000 police officers.

Last year he was named one of the country’s first Learning Disability and Autism Leaders and this year he reached the final shortlist for the national Learning Disability and Autism Awards.

This is all but a drop in the ocean for the work Mark has done and continues to do.

He’s not only shaped how we run our services and train our colleagues but helped shaped how other organisations and how the country as a whole supports people with learning disabilities.

He’s an expert voice in the ear of politicians, journalists, professionals and anyone he can reach who can influence change.

He’s an advocate and helps his peers find the confidence to speak up for themselves and demand better.

Simply, Mark wants to make sure no one else has to endure the adversity he’s faced.

We are truly honoured to work with Mark and anybody else who encounters him should be honoured too.

“This award is a fantastic personal achievement for Mark and, on behalf of all of us at Dimensions, I’d like to congratulate him most heartily! Dr Brookes, as he now is, has contributed a great deal to Dimensions, firstly as a quality checker and now as our Campaigns Advisor. He has worked with dedication and passion on our ‘I’m With Sam’ and ‘My GP and Me’ campaigns, making a real difference to the lives of many people, and his determined advocacy for the rights of all people with learning disabilities and autism continues to inspire me and many others. Well done Mark – this honour is richly deserved.” – Steve Scown, Dimensions CEO

“Mark is a force of nature, demonstrated over the years by his up-front style, determination to get things done, and his relentless push for a fairer world for people with learning disabilities. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know Mark as a colleague and friend; he is someone I look up to, and have great admiration for his natural ability to talk truth to people in power. If you want to get something done, get Mark on your team! Congratulations Mark, I’m sure you’ll use this new title to further the cause even more.” – Paul Pargeter, Head of Involvement and Engagement.