‘Sometimes in life, people need encouragement and support to have their voices heard’

Catherine Carter works for Thera North, speaking up for people with disabilities, checking service quality and sitting on the board. She talks to Dominique Burley

Catherine Carter

Catherine Carter has now been working at Thera North for a year, where she is a quality service director.

She talks about helping people with disabilities and what qualified her for the job, and offers advice on securing work.

What does your job involve?

My job is to represent the people we support who have a learning disability in Thera North at the charity’s board level.

Thera North supports people with a learning disability in Cumbria, County Durham, Darlington, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton and Lancashire.

I check if people are getting good support and getting their voice heard, and making sure they are happy with the services that Thera North supplies.

I do visits, go to events we do for people we support, take part in our business planning with them and go to management and board meetings.

What do you particularly enjoy about the work?

That I am meeting people and listening to their stories and trying to help them live a life that they want.

I like being a self-advocate and helping other people who have a disability like me. Sometimes in life, people need encouragement and support to have their voices heard and that is what my job is all about.

I am very confident person who will stand up and let people with a disability have a voice.

How was the recruitment and interview process?

I had to do a presentation about myself and being a self-advocate, talk about my achievements in life and if I had done any quality checking of services in the past. I answered questions from a panel of people.

Because of my background and my expertise in self-advocacy – I worked for an equal rights charity in Leeds, an organisation promoting and listening to the voices of people with learning disabilities or autism – I qualified for the job.

What adjustments do you have in your work?

Thera has been very supportive in adjusting to my health and hospital appointments, which I was worried about in the interview as I am undergoing cancer treatment. But I am an honest person and I do not hide information.

I have an executive assistant who helps me with my role. She has been very helpful and gets me the information I need to know. She helped me settle into the role and also helps plan my diary, like where I need to be on certain days.

Do volunteering work if you had not had a job before; it will make you a better person to represent people and speak on their behalf

What have you done in your job that you are proud of?

I am proud of every part of my job. Thera Trust hires people with lived experience to be quality service directors and they can work their way up to higher positions in the trust if they have the right experience. No other firm I know offers this type of opportunity for people with lived experience.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to do a job like yours?

Build up your confidence, do some training, don’t be scared to take opportunities and work with local advocacy groups.

Do volunteering work if you had not had a job before; it will make you a better person to represent people with lived experience and to speak on their behalf.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

I was so proud when I won the Mencap Activist of the Year award in 2018.

I did a speech in the Houses of Parliament around health for people with learning disabilities in front of health minister Caroline Dinenage MP.

Dominique Burley is senior development worker at Forum Central’s Learning Disability Network