Meet our lovely judges.
Each judge has been chosen for their understanding of what caring for a child with additional needs is really like. Whether they work in the field, are parents or bloggers themselves, they are perfectly placed to recognise the talents of our nominees.
Counsellor and SEN advocate
I am a parent and step parent of five in total, two of whom have SEND. I am a warrior when it comes to securing what my children need. I am a qualified, practising, young people’s counsellor and SEND advocate who wants to share everything I have learnt about SEND.
Brian specialises in strategic change and innovation in the public sector, focusing on children with SEND. He advises the National Sensory Impairment Partnership and works with local authorities and parent groups on implementing SEND reforms. He Chaired the Lamb Inquiry into Parental Confidence in SEND which formed the basis of current reforms to the SEND framework. He’s founding Chair of Achievement for All and Visiting Professor of SEND at Derby University. As Chair of Special Education Consortium, Brian worked on all key legislation related to SEND. He worked for Scope and Action on Hearing Loss before becoming a consultant.
Director of Bringing Us Together
Debs is mum of three children with a variety of SEND labels and is the co-founder of Bringing Us Together. Debs also delivers workshops to families and practitioners and is passionate about sharing information to help families make informed decisions and helping parent carers to realise their goals.
Chair of Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
Elaine is a solicitor who has been acting for parents and young people with additional needs since 1994. She set up her own specialist firm in 1998 (ultimately MG Law) dealing with education and community care and has represented many parents in tribunals since 1995. Her firm became well-known for its expertise in disability law, and as a result she was heavily involved in commenting and campaigning on disability law. She retired at the end of 2014 and is now Chair of IPSEA, which provides advice and support for parents through the legal processes needed to meet their children’s needs.
Chief Executive for Registered Trust INFACT, SEND Blogger
Emma is Chief Executive for Registered Trust INFACT, the only Registered Trust in the world supporting parents and families harmed by Epilepsy medications. Emma is also Lead National Campaigner at Parliament for Epilepsy Medications taken during Pregnancy, continuing to raise awareness in Government and help influence policy change. Emma is also writer for her Blog Emma4facs.
Sometimes I feel like a brand but I’m me, a commuting career woman in a previous ‘life’, now a stay-at-home Mumma to two wonderful children, who just happen to have autism too. One at each end of the spectrum, one diagnosed at 4.5 years old and the other, very recently at 10.5 years.
I started blogging to raise awareness and acceptance of autism for them and everyone connected to the autistic spectrum (there’s an ever-growing number of us!), it also helps me at times to ‘blog it out’ when certain worries just get too much.
To wind down, you’ll find me sipping a decaf mocha, with some crochet nearby (in a variant of a purple colour, I have a bit of a purple passion!).
I feel very honoured to have been asked to be a judge for the BAPS Awards.
Jo Henley writes over at her blog, Ojo’s World, using her corner of the internet to talk all about her life. Jo has three sons, two of which are on the ASD spectrum. She loves to read blogs, as well as write, mostly because, in her words, she’s nosy! Jo is colourful and hard to miss. She’s also very social, so looking forward to meeting the BAPS bloggers.
Co-Founder, Bringing Us Together
Katie Clarke has 6 children, runs workshops for parents, and is the co-founder of Bringing Us Together. She has worked with families across the country for over 20 years and is passionate about bringing parents together to share their stories and use their narrative to make a difference.
Kirsty is a busy mum of three children, including twins. She is also a housewife and blogs over at Highjacked by Twins. Kirsty specialises in family friendly recipes that can be easily made when life is manic! Whether in the kitchen cooking a meal or baking a cake, it is Kirsty’s favourite place to be.
Clinical Service Model Lead (CAMHS/ LD) at NHS England
Phil is a nurse for people with learning disabilities. He currently works for NHS England on the Transforming Care programme, where his role is to help local areas develop better support and services for children and young people with a learning disability and/or autism.
Before this, Phil worked as a health commissioner and led the SEND Pathfinder in Calderdale. ‘I feel privileged to have been asked to judge the BAPS and I am really looking forward to reading the entries.’
BA (Hons), M.A, CIPD, Fellow of Centre for Welfare Reform
Sarah has worked with people with learning disabilities for almost 30 years. She began supporting people out of long-stay institutions. Sarah’s been a training manager pioneering new initiatives in workplace training. Following her MA in Applied Psychology of Learning Disability Services, Sarah was Operations Director of a large learning disability charity, developing direct payments and supported living services. Sarah was Director of Quality and Safeguarding at Choice Support and is now Managing Director. She’s a Board Member of Learning Disability England, on the Driving Up Quality Alliance’ steering committee and a founder member of the Association of Quality Checkers.
Steph Curtis started blogging over six years ago, after her youngest daughter Sasha was given a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (also called ASD or Autism). Her blog is called Steph’s Two Girls so that her older daughter is remembered too, and not just thought of as ‘the sibling’. Although ASD was the original diagnosis for Sasha, it’s believed that she actually has a specific type of autism known as Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). Steph is keen to raise awareness of this condition and runs courses for parents to help with strategies for everyday life.
Steph has been writing her blog since 2008, documenting life as a parent of four children. Her two boys have high functioning autism and her youngest daughter has a rare, life-limiting genetic disease. She highlights issues faced by families caring for children with disabilities especially around palliative care, learning disability & support for parent carers. Steph has written for The Guardian, The Independent and The Huffington Post as well as the charities Carers UK, Together for Short Lives and Mencap. Her first book documenting her journey as a carer, not just to her children but to her terminally ill husband Andy, will be published later this year.
Ambassador for Learning Disabilities, Autism and their Families for the World Health Innovation Summit (WHIS). Winner of Learning Disability Champion (2015), Learning Disability Today Award. Voted Health Service Journal top 50 inspirational women in healthcare (2014).
Yvonne Newbold is the author of The Special Parent’s Handbook and also runs workshops, courses and other events for parents and professionals involved in the care of SEND children. She also blogs about SEND parenting issues and about her Stage 4 cancer. Yvonne is mum to Francesca, Toby and Adam.