Monday, 31 October 2011

Hands-on experience for Susan Hanley

Cllr Lucinda Yeadon with Susan Hanley in the council chamber

A young woman with learning disabilities has spent today (Monday) shadowing a senior councillor in Leeds.

Susan Hanley got a taste for local government when she co-chaired the ‘Great Council Chamber Takeover’ in January this year. This unique event saw 50 adults with learning disabilities 'takeover' the council chamber at Leeds Civic Hall to find out how local democracy works. She was also part of a delegation from Leeds that travelled down to Westminster in the summer to meet with local MPs as part of Learning Disabilities Awareness Week.

The takeover event was supported by councillors from all parties, with Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, who has responsibility for adult health and social care in Leeds, getting involved as one of four councillors on a panel answering questions from the delegates. Cllr Yeadon was pleased to be able to help Susan get an even better feel for the work of a senior councillor by inviting her to shadow her for a typical day.

Susan said:
“I really enjoyed spending the day with Lucinda. It was interesting to see the variety of different things that she is involved in, and the work that she is doing to support adults in the city.

“I’m really interested in how local government works, and what people with learning disabilities can do to make sure that their views are heard. Having this opportunity makes me feel that the council are prepared to listen to our problems and take on board some of our ideas.”

Councillor Yeadon said:
“The Great Council Chamber Takeover day was a fantastic event, and Susan did a fantastic job as co-chair.

“She has a really positive attitude, with great enthusiasm and a lovely sense of humour. She is truly inspirational for a lot of people with and without learning disabilities.

“Susan is a strong woman, and has taken lots of opportunities and pushed herself forward, in order to have a say on how the lives of adults with learning disabilities in Leeds and all across the country could be improved.

“It was a real pleasure to have her with me today, and I hope that the experience will empower her to continue to challenge prejudices and make sure that people with learning disabilities have a voice.”

Susan accompanied Cllr Yeadon to a number of appointments including a briefing with the deputy director of adult health and social care, attendance at the Leeds Involving People annual general meeting, a visit to a council base for adults with learning disabilities, and a meeting with the chair of the health and social care scrutiny board.

Susan has Down’s Syndrome and used to attend a day centre for people with learning disabilities in West Ardsley. Through the centre she went on a series of work placements, working as a waitress, an administrator and a shop assistant.

In 2004, Susan took the opportunity to make a more direct impact on improving the lives of people with learning disabilities by securing a job at ‘Change’, a national campaigning organisation for people with learning disabilities. Here, she worked on many important projects including one called ‘Making Partnership Boards Work’, which looked at the issues facing people with learning disabilities getting their voices heard at a strategic level. The results were recommendations for making improvements. Susan went on to work to help partnership boards work better all across the country.

Susan has also done a lot of work making information accessible for people with learning disabilities, including the use of Easywords and Pictures. She has delivered training on this to many organisations including the (then) Commission for Social Care Inspection. She has worked on several DVDs for people with learning disabilities and for staff training on subjects as diverse as better health and saving energy.

In 2009, after a formal interview process, Susan took up the position of co-chair of the Leeds Learning Disabilities Partnership Board alongside Derek Thomas. This is the strategic board that aims to make improvements in the lives of people with learning disabilities in Leeds. Her role is to challenge prejudices and ensure the voices of people with learning disabilities are heard.

Additional info

The Leeds Learning Disabilities Partnership Board is made up of people with learning disabilities, family carers and partners from the public, private, community and voluntary sectors. Leeds City Council and NHS Leeds are the main funders of work commissioned by the board.

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578

Halloween opening for children's centre

CGS: Fairy Enchantica from Make a Wish joins children at the Moortown Children's Centre

Families and staff joined MP Fabian Hamilton and other local dignitaries for Halloween celebrations at the official opening of the Moortown Children’s Centre this week.

The children enjoyed craft activities, face painting and balloon modelling while parents and carers were able to find out more about the work of the centre and other support available in the area.

The Moortown centre, which opened its doors for the first time in May 2010, offers a range of services including parenting courses, baby massage, yoga, play sessions and a baby café offering advice and support for mothers wanting to breastfeed.

The centre is based within Moor Allerton Hall Primary school but links in with other nearby schools. It caters for families with children under the age of 5 years and works in partnership with other agencies such as the health visitors, social care, local primary schools and private childcare providers.

Staff are available to advise on issues like debt management, housing, parenting skills and paediatric first aid. The centre also has strong links with Leeds city colleges who can offer other educational and interactive courses such as “playing with language” or “healthy eating”.

Five hundred families are already making use of the centre’s facilities and Monday’s event was designed to encourage even more families to get involved.

Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children’s services, said: “Children’s centres play a hugely important role in providing the right services and support for families so that children can develop and fulfil their potential.

“Here in Moortown staff have already done a fantastic job in reaching out to local families so they are aware of the services we can offer here. I’d urge any parents in the area with young children who haven’t yet made contact with centre to make a call or drop in and find out what’s available.”

Moortown Children’s Centre coordinator Lindsay Blackburn said:
“Bringing up children is one of the hardest jobs and most people need a bit of support at some time in their lives.
“By working together with families we want to improve the life chances of every child so they can actively enjoy and achieve in life and make a positive contribution.”

For media enquiries contact Annie Goodyear Leeds City Council press office 01134 2243937


Nationally recognised children’s mayor competition is back

The nationally commended Leeds Children’s Mayor competition has started again with the top 10 manifestos already short listed.

Previously known as ‘Mayor for a day’, the programme has been so successful in recent years that it was ‘highly commended’ by The Municipal Journal this year and renamed ‘Leeds Children’s Mayor’ as the programme has now been extended to last over a full year.

This year, Year Six children from primary schools across Leeds were asked to submit manifestos around how they would help Leeds become a “Child Friendly City”

The manifestos have been short listed down to a final ten by a panel of councillors and members of the youth council. The ten finalists’ manifestos and posters have now been uploaded to the breeze website and the Leeds Learning network allowing pupils across the city to vote for their favourite.

The ten finalists will be invited for tea with the Lord Mayor on Thursday 10 November where the winner will be announced, and then they will accompany the Lord Mayor to turning on of the Leeds Lights.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Reverend Alan Taylor said:

“This competition has gone from strength to strength and I am very proud that the Leeds programme has won national recognition through our ‘highly commended’ status from the MJ.

“This year the competition is even bigger – not only will the winner be Mayor for a Day, but they will be involved with a number of events throughout the rest of the year, including the ever popular Leeds Lights Switch on.
“We want to make sure that some of the ideas of the winner are implemented across the city, as with the case of last year’s winner Emily, who has been very active promoting health in schools.

“The level of ideas of the manifestos submitted this year is very high, and I am extremely excited to see who our winner will be.”

Any children who wish to vote can visit the breeze website at or log on to the Leeds Learning Network.

The overall winning manifesto will be presented by the author at a full council meeting in front of the city’s 99 councillors.

The competition is organised as part of Local Democracy Week, which is a national initiative to encourage young people to get more involved in local government to understand what it does and how it affects their lives.

Notes to editors:

The final shortlist of manifestos are:
• Courtney Ridgeway of Allerton Bywater Primary - ‘Love your heart, love yourself’
• Mitchell James Luxford from Bramley St Peter’s C/E Primary -‘Don’t Let the Olympics Pass You By’
• Taran Kaur Toor from Calverley C/E Primary - Think Smart When You Park!
• Siobhan Endeacott from Hilltop Primary - Be safe and Feel Safe
• Holly Tunstall from Kippax North Junior Infant and Nursery School - How do we get children and young people involved in making decisions?
• Bronwen Grainger from Moortown Primary School - You can make a difference
• Elliott Firth from Queensway Primary School - FIGHT THE TRASH!
• Freya Napier from Shire Oak C/E Primary - Do It Together – Leeds
• Joe Smith from Strawberry Fields Primary - White It Comes to Keeping Kidz Active – Leeds
• Hannah Bedford from Whinmoor St Paul’s C/E Primary - Children for Leeds


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450