We are delighted that one of our customers – Grant Paton – was a finalist in the VAL (Voluntary Action Leicestershire) Annual Awards which were announced at a prestigious event in Leicester on Friday 10th November.
Grant was nominated in the ‘Inspirational Leader of the Year’ category for the many hours of voluntary work he has carried out to represent the interests and experiences of people with Learning Disabilities and Mental Health conditions.
Grant is heavily involved with Advance as a member of the Customer Collective and the Customer Partnership through which he helps to represent customers’ views and shape the way we deliver services.
For over 20 years, he has volunteered with the Leicestershire Partnership Trust, representing himself and others with similar lived experiences to help improve mental health and learning disability services.
Grant has also been a key contributor to 'The Leicester Hate Crime Project', the largest study of hate crime victimisation ever undertaken in the UK.
Professor Neil Chakraborti who leads the research team at the Centre for Hate Studies at the University of Leicester, said that Grant showed immense leadership and courage in sharing his own experiences of disability hate crime and in helping the team to access others in similar positions.
He said: “Through his participation in this project, and in our two film The Harms of Hate and Revisiting the Harms of Hate, Grant has helped to humanise the damaging impacts of hate crime and enabled countless people to understand what it feels like to be subjected to violence, harassment and hostile behaviours on the basis of his learning disabilities and mental ill-health.” You can see Grant in the Revisiting the Harms of Hate film, here.
Grant narrowly missed out on winning the VAL award on the night, having been shortlisted as one of just five finalists from 45 entries.
“I was a bit disappointed not to win,” he said “but I am quite proud to be in the top five. Looking at the other entries, there was some tough competition!”
Grant says that he got involved in Volunteering to make a difference. “I had had my own personal issues and bad experiences with services”, he said, “so I got involved to improve services for me and other people like me. I would encourage others to get involved. It makes a difference and it also gives you a purpose.”
Speaking after the event, Advance’s Chief Executive, Julie Layton, said:
“I’m delighted that Grant has been recognised for the time and passion he puts into his voluntary work. He is a true advocate for the Learning Disability and Mental Health community and has given literally thousands of hours of his own time to give a voice to those within it. His work has directly contributed to change and raised awareness for this group of people who are often overlooked.
“He may not have won on the evening, but he is a winner in our eyes.”