The Awesome Awards - Nominations

Christine Shanks

Nominated by Ashleigh Ritchie
February 16, 2014

I would like to nominate Christine Shanks

My Name is Ashleigh Ritchie and I have Cerebral palsy, I worked as a sound therapist for ten years in a school for special educational needs.  I was medically retired after being ill. A year ago I recovered but thought there was no chance of my ever getting paid employment again. I thought paid work was just something I would have to dream of, but then I meet Christine and Lynn from the project and they made my dreams a reality.  Christine is the most amazing person I have ever met – she doesn’t know how fabulous she is and what a difference she has made to my confidence.

Christine employed my to work as part of her team, with the Employability Project which is part of The Percy Hedley Foundation.  The Foundation is a registered charity that provides services for disabled people and their families.   They offer a wide range of services to children, young people and adults. The education services include Percy Hedley Lower and Upper School, Northern Counties School, Percy Hedley College, residential and respite care for all ages.  Adult services include residential services, an ever increasing variety of adult day care services, and the hugely successful Employability Project which works across the region to develop employability opportunities for disabled people and break down the barriers that employers envisage exist to employing disabled people. This project encourages regional organisations to be socially responsible and proactive by acting as a link between employers, supported employment organisations and disabled people.  The Employability Project is funded externally by the Big Lottery.   The project aims to enable people with learning or physical disabilities to access work placements, apprenticeships and any type of employment opportunities.

Christine Shanks manages the whole project and is well known for building relationships with employers, who, in turn, builds self esteem, confidence and encouraging them to break down barriers and erase misconceptions. Christine is also an Equality and Diversity Consultant and, through her training sessions, has managed to change attitudes and behaviours toward employing disabled people.

Christine has recently employed me to deliver Equality and Diversity training.  and since working for her I have been amazed at what the project gives to employers, service users and students.   Before working for Christine I worked in two schools for students with learning difficulties, so I am aware of the day to day difficulties Christine's students face. Since Christine came in to post, employers are a lot more open minded and are willing to have a student on a work placement. This is lovely to see and the development and progress of the students is readily visible. They are working as part of a team and very proud of themselves. 

Christine works, along side her colleagues with a group of service users with profound and multiple learning disabilities, some have limited speech, some limited movement and a range of disabilities.  They co-deliver disability and customer service awareness training alongside her delivering equality and diversity training to employers and staff. The training has been well received by employers and, thanks to Christine and the teams, hard work and dedication this group of service users now believe that they can do anything they set their mind to. I was blown away by this group of service users when I first meet them.  Christine is amazing the project would not work without her if I didn’t know better I would think the equality act was written because they were inspired by Christine. She is the most wonderful person I have ever met and it has been a privilege to work for her. Christine is loved by everyone she meets, there is not many people I could say this about. If the world was full of Christine Shanks we would not need an Equality act.

Christine, has written to the Lottery fund to extend the bid. AS the project has exceeded all expectation  but there is so much more that needs to be done, both to change attitudes and to provide the support that future groups of students with such disabilities will need.

A great deal still has to be done to meet the requirements of the a Equality Act 2010 and this project plays a fundamental role in achieving this aim. This is just my thoughts but the project, would not be as amazing without Christine- she make the project as special as it is because she is such an special person.