Earlier this week, I attended the valedictory lecture in London for Dame Christine Lenehan, the long-time Director of the Council for Disabled Children. Dame Christine took up the role twenty years ago, having started her career in 1980 as a social worker. It came a few days after we recorded our own podcast with Christine looking back at her career, which has included often thankless shuttle diplomacy between government departments and investigating the horrors of abuse of disabled young people at the Hesley Group of residential special schools/homes. During her lecture, she warned, “If we do not implement the changes from Hesley children will be abused again.”
35 children’s ministers
She has seen 35 children’s ministers come and go since then. The latest, David Johnston MP, briefly spoke before the lecture about his short experience liaising with Christine, “Every bit of advice she gives, in whatever meeting she’s in, is always religiously focused on the needs of the child and the family. If anything is discussed that is not in their best interests, she will say so. And that’s exactly the sort of advice you need.” Unfortunately, Mr Johnston didn’t stay to listen to the speech, a missed opportunity to learn more about the passion and emotion of those working in the sector to improve disabled children’s lives.
He would also have heard a confident disabled young person and Oxford Uni student, Carys Hoggan, who as a member of the FLARE young person’s group, said “[CDC and Christine have] made me who I am today... young people in this organisation are not a tick box... I am so grateful to be part of something that has never made me feel anything less than valued.”
Christine has helped SNJ amplify our voice
Christine has also been to bat for us in SNJ in the past, her persistence winning us a place on the important Ministerial SEND Stakeholder’s Advisory Group, emphasising the need for a wider parental representation than just the “official” strategic partners, the NNPCF. In her speech, Christine spoke of the power and importance of Special Needs Jungle at holding to account the powers that be (although of course, this is something we shouldn’t still have to be doing!)
See some photos from the event at the end.
There are those who remain sceptical of Dame Christine’s motives, in the wake of some quotes made in irony that were taken out of context. While you can believe what you like, we know her to be a dedicated advocate for children and young people with disabilities. We hope you give the podcast a listen/watch and join us in thanking Christine for her many years of hard work. CDC’s Amanda Allard, has been promoted to take over the reins as Director.
Watch the podcast with Dame Christine Lenehan
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Photos from the Valedictory lecture
Who else should we interview?
Is there someone you think we should be speaking to from the world of SEND? A practitioner who has led the way to better practice? A personality who has worked to raise the profile of SEND? A politician or parent? Let us know!
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