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Judging the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders List

Thank you to all our fabulous judges, who had the challenging job of picking 60 winners from nearly 600 total nominees. We asked them to share their thoughts about the stories they read.

Read our winners’ stories.

Meet our 2018 judges

    • John Harris (@johnharris1969) – Guardian journalist
    • Andrea Sutcliffe (@Crouchendtiger7) – Chief Inspector, Adult Social Care, Care Quality Commission
    • Angharad Jenkins – Editor, Care Management Matters
    • Anna Kennedy OBE (@AnnaKennedy1)– Autism campaigner
    • Barney Cullum (@BDOCullum) – Editor, Learning Disability Today
    • Gail Hanrahan (@GailHanrahan)– Programme Manager, Oxfordshire Family Support
    • Gary Bourlet (@BourletGaryLDE)– Expert by experience & co-founder, Learning Disability England
    • Jane Evans – Voluntary Organisations Disability Group
    • John Lish – Autistic Adult and Director of Veqias CIC
    • Kate Ansell – BBC journalist
    • Kaliya Franklin – Learning Disability England
    • Lisa Carr (@lisa_caretalk)- Editor, Care Talk
    • Paul Pargeter (@PaulParge) – Dimensions
    • Rachel Outram – Expert by experience
    • Young Leader and Lifetime Achievement awards were selected by Steve Scown (@SScown), CEO of Dimensions

Here’s what our judges thought:

“In my job I have to make tough decisions all the time, but few are as bloomin’ difficult as judging these awards.

“Each person’s story was moving and inspirational and trying to decide who to leave out was awful! They are all leaders in my eyes and I hope that the winners and everyone nominated are justifiably proud of their achievements.”

Andrea Sutcliffe
Chief Inspector, Adult Social Care, Care Quality Commission


“This is tough to judge. There are so many examples that I admire and just bring a smile to my face. Stories of bravery, stickability and overcoming obstacles. Stories that are ordinary yet extraordinary.”

John Lish, Autistic Adult and Director of Veqias CIC


“I just want to say how difficult I found this. They were some really deserving winners here. I’ve gone with my ‘gut’ and selected the people I found jumped out at me as inspiring and showing leadership… and were doing things that they loved and sharing their passion with others.”

Gail Hanrahan
Family Consultant


“It’s tremendously exciting to work in partnership with an organisation on a project initially developed by disabled people. Being able to see learning disabled people using their power is an immense privilege.”

Kaliya Franklin
Learning Disability England


“This was an incredibly difficult thing to judge. All of the entries were hugely inspiring and I have been genuinely moved by some of the stories. The obstacles people have overcome to get to where they are today – often due to society ‘writing them off’ or expecting less of them – are astounding. Hopefully this list will encourage everyone to see how much people can achieve – whether they have a learning disability or not.”

Angharad Jenkins
Editor, Care Management Matters


“I think the hardest part of being a judge was having to choose only a selection of candidates to put forward as I felt everyone was amazing. I enjoyed my experience of being a judge for the leaders list, I want to wish everyone on the list a great future and hope they all keep up with their amazing achievements.” –

Rachel Outram
Expert by experience


Read our Learning Disability and Autism 2018 Leaders’ stories