Tina Walker is a campaigner for equality. Tina is a Director for Skillnet Group and works for the National and Regional Forums for people with a learning difficulty as well as working with the Kent Parents Action Group. In 2015, Tina also became a mother.
Earlier this month, Tina won the Dean’s Shared Purpose External Stakeholder Award from Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) - yes, we know that the title is a bit of a mouthful!
The Award recognises the contribution of co-teachers from the communities that students are learning to work with. Some might call them "service users". As a parent with a learning difficulty, Tina regularly shares her experiences with students on the midwifery course. Within the training, Tina highlights the good support she received throughout her pregnancy, labour and parenting, as well as bringing up the challenges and areas in which care and support could be improved.
Cathy Bernal, Senior Lecturer of Learning Disability at CCCU said - “I nominated Tina with nothing but pride for the quality of her teaching, and in being able to call her a colleague”
The Award included a £250 shopping voucher presented at the Awards Ceremony on Wednesday 7th December.
Tina said - "I do the training because I want to make a positive change for people with a learning difficulty, who are, or who want to be, parents. I don't do it to win awards but it's amazing to receive recognition for the work that we do.
I took my 21 month old daughter, Amelia, to the awards lunch as she is an important part of the story I tell when I am teaching student midwives. It was scary going to the awards ceremony as I did not know anyone there, but I was really happy to be invited and hearing Cathy's reason for nominating me made me really emotional!"
The real life and (sometimes hard to hear) experiences that Tina and the Parents Action Group shares in their teaching has had an impact outside of the classroom. One student midwife was so motivated by the training that she set up a petition calling for all healthcare professionals to receive continued training on how to support parents with a learning disability so that the number of cases of children being removed from their parents is reduced. You can sign the petition here.
Tina is a trainer with the Parents Action Group, a support and campaigning group run by Skillnet. The Parents Action Group was set up by Voice4Kent, an advocacy group run by people with a learning difficulty. 40-60% of children of parents with a learning difficulty/disability are taken into care, mostly due to accidental neglect or delays in development. The group wanted to change this and make sure that people with a learning difficulty have an equal opportunity to have a family.
Kent Parents Action Group
Since 2011, the Parents Action Group has run peer support groups for parents, signposting to local support, groups and services, and owns a resource library to help professionals and parents to care for and support their children effectively. For the past 2 years the group has focused on delivering training to midwives and other healthcare professionals on how to support parents and ensure that they are given appropriate support to care for their families. Training is co-produced by parents with and without a learning difficulty, in collaboration with lecturers at the University. An approach that values the expertise from someone with lived experience, as well as bringing in experience and skills from professionals and supporters.
Co-teaching at Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is leading the way in including experts by experience in its teaching. Cathy explains, we do it because:
· The presence of co-teachers is more engaging for students, often because personal stories can be more emotional;
· The learning is more authentic than theory can be;
· It helps to bridge the theory-practice gap; and
· It strengthens our “message” about social inclusion and the need to give people a voice.
Canterbury Christ Church University has been including experts by experience in its teaching for about 6 years. The Mental Health Nursing Faculty has the most established programme and works closely with The Buddy Scheme (http://www.thebuddyscheme.co.uk/). “Buddies” (people with experience of mental ill health) are required to assess their student’s skills in year 2, as well as teach in the classroom on several occasions.
In Child Nursing, disabled children interview prospective students, and some parents teach in the classroom. The Social Work programme links up with the Kent Youth Parliament and other local groups, and co-teachers regularly appear in the classroom.
Co-teachers with learning disabilities are not only involved in midwifery, they teach on the Adult Nursing programme (through Simulated Hospital Admissions where actor/trainers with learning disabilities role play being patients), Diagnostic Radiography, Paramedic Science, Social Work, Mental Health Nursing and, of course, Midwifery. There are plans to involve people with learning and communication difficulties in Speech and Language Therapy, too, and Skillnet Group and the Kent Parents Action Group will be supporting and encouraging the University to continue increasing co-teaching for students.