Staff Choice Awards 2018/19
Unsung Hero Award (Non-Clinical)

Carole Watlow

Has been shortlisted for this award

Job title
Green Light Volunteer 
Lowestoft, Waveney 

The nomination said...

Carole is a volunteer for the Trust and works with the Green Light team; she is highly motivated in her role as volunteer, spending at least one full day every week in the office as well as attending numerous, meetings, events and training sessions across the organisation.

She eloquently shares her experiences of being a person with learning disability accessing the Trust services.

During her interactions with staff, Carole, is honest and upfront, giving her unique perspective of what life is like for someone who has a learning disability, mental health, poor education and lack of family support.

One significant impact Carole makes is her contribution to the production of easy read information for the Trust, she finds reading very difficult, and is willing to share this to develop easy read information, which meets this need.

She actively seeks out other people with learning disabilities in her social circles and encourages and supports them to get their voices heard. Carole has set up a Whatsapp group and encourages and motivates others to actively engage in services to improve their mental wellbeing. For example, Carole, will support service users to attend the Adult LD service user forum, she will even go as far as meeting up with them beforehand, to give them the confidence to come along. Carole acts as a positive role model to other people with learning disabilities and is passionate to share the benefits of being part of the Trust, even in an unpaid role.

Carole has been involved in a number of projects over the last 18mths, her first contact with the Trust as a volunteer came about when she attended the Adult LD service user forum. The forum was struggling to get people to attend regularly. Carole took a lead role in rejuvenating this group, by changing the venue, developing the structure of the group to include elections of officers, making sure everyone who attended the group felt part of the discussion and decision making. The group has gone from strength to strength with Carole as a principal inspirational leader.

Carole, has very strong views about the need for people’s voices to be heard, she feels that too often, people will be in groups or meetings and feel unable to join in the conversation. So Carole has made it her mission to educate staff across the Trust to use communication cards in all meetings and groups. She has made, and sent out to all teams, communication cards, including an explanation as to how they are used. Also every event or meeting she attends where she meets staff she will explain about the communication cards and offers to send people sets of these, which she does on a regular basis (even though she hates laminating!).

Carole is inspirational! Despite all the challenges she has faced and continues to face, she remains passionate and committed to improving other people’s lives. She wants to make a difference for the sake of others. She feels that for so long her own voice was never heard, that now she has the position and confidence she must use this in every way she can. So when she meets with staff during meetings, teaching sessions and events, she is honest and open about her personal circumstances, in such a positive way that people listen and are moved by what she says.

Carole has spoken at a number of large events including the launch of the Equality and Diversity Strategy and this year’s Trust AGM; she always receives exceptionally positive feedback. When engaging with service users she helps them believe that anything is possible, she gets over in a unique way how engaging in positive activities can improve people’s mental wellbeing and symptoms of mental ill health. She did loads of work to promote LD week; one person was not able to come to the forum and have his picture taken to join our social media campaign, so she went round his house to take his picture so he doesn’t miss out.

She is acutely aware of her own limitations, but instead of dwelling on these she is proactively trying to develop her own skills and knowledge. She has already completed one computer course and has just started a second. She has also recently enrolled on a literacy course to improve her reading and writing.

When working with Carole, I am often in awe of what she has and continues to overcome and feel that I need to share this to put into context how amazing she is. Carole often shares this information about herself in open events so I am sure she will be happy for me to share this with you. Carole comes from a very difficult family background with all members of her immediate family having either Learning disabilities and/or acute mental ill health. She has had three babies, all of which were taken into care at birth. She has suffered significant complex abuse at various points in her life and has spent time homeless. Carole has a learning disability, long term physical and mental health issues, BUT…. despite all this she is kind, caring and compassionate, she is thoughtful, insightful, and she is such a pleasure to work with. I recently picked her up to go to a teaching session together and she got in my car with a bunch of flowers, and gave them to me, I asked her what they were for and she replied, “cause I know you will be a bit sad because your daughter has gone” (my daughter had left for uni the weekend before!).

I hope you are able to see that Carole is the most amazing unsung hero the Trust has, working hard and without payment, she is dedicated and committed to the Trust values, she is always positive, respectful to everyone and believes we can all work together to make a difference. Everyone’s voice should be heard and she is always ready to listen.