Late in 2007, Rob Platts, then Chair of the Guernsey MS Society, went to a meeting to discuss the sharing of information between disabled islanders. The initiative was instigated and hosted by Roger Bowns, the much-loved Channel TV presenter, now sadly no longer with us. Roger was a disabled person himself in his later years and was frustrated by the effort required to find out about goods and services that would be help him maintain his independence.
At the meeting, Maria Gregory-Haines from HSSD explained that the States was keen to set up a Disability Forum to bring together disabled islanders, States departments, healthcare professionals and voluntary organisations. She asked Rob if he would represent voluntary organisations on the Forum.
With the assistance of Wendy Beaven from Health Information Guernsey, Rob called a meeting of all the charities involved with disabled islanders and thus began the “Voluntary Organisations Group of the Disability Forum”. However, once the charities started meeting regularly, they found that they had many issues in common regardless of the different impairments of the people they supported – housing, employment, respite, equipment, benefits, transport, access… The group developed an energy and a sense of purpose way beyond simply contributing to the Forum, and began attracting individual disabled people, as well as a wide range of voluntary organisations, including the island’s mental health charities. Late in 2008 the group renamed itself the “Guernsey Disability Alliance”.
Rob Platts had always made clear that he would only be permanently in the island long enough to get the GDA off the ground and guide it it in its important formative year. In April 2009, Shelaine Green, then Chair of Headway Guernsey, was elected as the new Chair of the Guernsey Disability Alliance and she led the organisation until June 2016. Rob is the group’s Equality Adviser.
Rob, Shelaine and everyone involved with the GDA owe much to the wisdom and experience of the GDA’s founding Vice-Chair, Dave Purdy. Dave led the Guernsey Association of Disabled People through the late 1980s and 1990s.
In April 2015 the GDA appointed their first Executive Director to the team – Karen Blanchford. The post is funded by a strategic grant from the Guernsey Community Foundation and is part of a Five Year Plan to ensure that the GDA’s vital work as the voice for disabled islanders continues into the future.
In October 2015, the GDA was the “Community Champion” runner-up in the national finals of the Lloyds Bank Foundation Charity Achievement Awards.
In November 2015, Shelaine Green was awarded the Community Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in recognition of the success of the GDA’s campaign to introduce the island’s first Disability Strategy.
In the 2016 AGM, Shelaine stood down and GDA members elected a new leadership team. Robin Le Prevost is Chair and Arrun Wilkie is Vice-Chair.