2016 Conference Panel Debates

2016 Conference Panel Debates

Panel DebatesWe have two debates scheduled across the conference. Please send us your questions to ask at the debates.

Making the SEND reforms work

The SEND reforms encourage a personalised approach to study programmes with the aim of employment as a destination for learners. The session will examine how the reforms can be implemented to ensure the best employment outcomes for young people.

  • How do we get the best outcomes from supported internships?
  • What is needed to form effective strategic partnerships?
  • What’s the role for employers?
  • What skills are needed by the workforce to deliver change?
  • How can study programmes become more personalised?

Kathleen Ainsley (Parent)
Jodie Booth (Curriculum Manager for Employability and Skills, The Manchester College)
Laura Davis (Chief Executive, Ways into Work)
Julie Hicklin (SEND Lead, Manchester City Council)
Linda Jordan (Preparing for Adulthood)
James Whybra (Assistant Head Teacher, Castle School, Newbury)

Halving the Disability Employment Gap

The Work and Health Programme is about to be tendered within the context of devolved responsibilities. This session will examine the options for future employment support as the Government seeks to halve the gap in employment rates.

  • Can a single programme work effectively?
  • What should be the balance between service fees and outcome payments?
  • How well have people with disabilities been served by existing programmes?
  • What does the evidence say about what works?
  • How can supply chains deliver for those most marginalised?
  • What will devolved powers mean?

Sherann Hillman (co-Chair, National Network of Parent Carer Forums)
Hugh Pullinger (Deputy Director, DWP Disability and Work Opportunities Division)
Pat Russell (Director of Integrated Health and Care Services, APM)
Melanie Wilkes (Policy Advisor, Scope)

Panel members

Kathleen Ainsley


Kathleen is mother to Matthew (27) who has Down’s syndrome. Matthew lives in his own place with his friend, has 2 jobs (one paid, one voluntary) and lives a full life with an Individual Service Fund, employing a fantastic bespoke provider called Equal Partnerships.

Kathleen became involved with person-centred planning in 2007, through the "Getting A Life" project, and has ensured that Matthew has received the right support to achieve his ambitions. A place on a Supported Internship scheme led to a job offer within administration and Matthew has now worked there for 4 years.

Jodie Booth

The Manchester College

Jodie has over 17 years’ experience in the field of Supported Employment and Education; the last 10 years of which have been working for The Manchester College where she is now Curriculum Manager for Employability and Skills. She was tasked to develop the supported employment offer for young adults with learning difficulties and disabilities within The Manchester College. In 2010, the opportunity arose to become part of the Project SEARCH pilot with Pure Innovations and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The Manchester College now offer four Supported Internship sites across Greater Manchester.

Laura Davis

Ways into Work

Laura is the Managing Director of Ways into Work CIC and South East Representative for BASE. Over the years Laura’s commitment and passion for Supported Employment has transformed Ways into Work from a small local authority service in Windsor & Maidenhead to an independent social enterprise delivering multiple contracts for various client groups across Berkshire and Hampshire. Under Laura’s dynamic leadership Ways into Work have won several awards, and are particularly recognised for their innovative work in developing Supported Employment for young people in transition.

Julie Hicklin

Manchester City Council

Julie is the 0-25 special educational needs and disability (SEND) lead for Manchester City Council. Her responsibilities include ensuring sufficiency of post 16 education and training opportunities for young people with SEND. She works with sixth forms, colleges, training providers, supported employment organisations and families to ensure that study programmes help young people achieve the Preparing for Adulthood life outcomes specified in their Education, Health and Care plans. Julie previously worked as Manchester’s pathfinder lead – testing the SEND reforms. She originally trained as a careers adviser.

Sherann Hillman

National Network of Parent Carer Forums

Sherann is a devoted mum of 3 children with special educational needs. She is the founder of PIPs, Stockport’s parent carer forum, and a co-Chair of the NNPCF. Sherann is committed to ensuring that children, young people and families are at the hearty of what we do and are fully engaged in working in co-production to shape services that fit best around them. She is passionate about bringing change through person-centred practices including advocating for young people to have a pathway to employment, independent living and enjoying life to the full.

Linda Jordan

National Development Team for Inclusion

Linda has worked for the National Development Team for Inclusion since 2011. Her work has been mainly with the Preparing for Adulthood Programme, delivering national support for the implementation of the SEN Reforms as they apply to the 14-25 age cohort. Linda worked for the Department of Health as part of the Valuing People Team 2002-2011 as the London regional adviser and national lead for transition.

Linda previously worked for the London Borough of Hackney managing services for children with disabilities and special educational needs. Building on her achievements in Barking and Dagenham and Newham, Linda developed inclusive education provision for children and young people with special needs and disabilities, significantly reducing the number of children placed in out of area specialist schools and colleges and enabling resources to be used far more effectively.

Hugh Pullinger


Hugh Pullinger is Head of Disability and Work Opportunities Division at the Department for Work and Pensions. He is responsible for policy on specialist disability employment programmes (Work Choice, Access to Work, Specialist Employability Support) and the Disability Confident Campaign.

Hugh was previously Head of the Office for Disability Issues and has worked on social policy and strategy development in a range of Government Departments including DWP, the Treasury, the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and the Home Office.

Pat Russell


Pat joined APM in the summer of 2016 with a remit to ensure that the health and care needs of its clients are fully integrated into all programmes whether through directly employed Allied Health Professionals or working in an integrated way with local services.

Pat is currently part of the team developing APM’s offer for the Work and Health Programme, working closely with the current UK business not only to test out new ideas but to bring the best learning from the parent company in Australia, from leading health and disability organisations and from cutting edge research.

Formerly, Pat was a civil servant with wide experience in both policy development and delivery. Most recently as Head of the Office for Disability Issues, she was at the forefront of driving change across Whitehall getting greater involvement of disabled people in policy making. She was previously responsible for development of DWP’s commissioning strategy in 2008 and was Deputy Director for both the Social Justice and Young People and Employment divisions of DWP.

James Whybra

The Castle School, Newbury

James Whybra is an Assistant Head Teacher at The Castle School in Newbury. A key part of his role is the running of the Post-16 unit which focuses on independence for the students. Developing employment opportunities for the students has been a big focus over the past four years. The World of Work programme that has been developed has been exceptionally successful resulting in many students gaining employment. The approach to employer engagement is something James has worked hard to develop and is constantly developing ways to improve.

Prior to his current role, James was a Head of Year in a mainstream secondary seeing his year group through from year 7 to 11 and dealing with all of the challenges associated with the role.

Melanie Wilkes

Policy Advisor, Scope

Melanie is a Policy Advisor at Scope, the pan-disability charity. Scope has a long standing interest in employment and is committed to holding the Government to account on its pledge to halve the disability employment gap. Melanie leads Scope’s policy research on employment, looking at the change needed to tackle the barriers disabled people face in entering and staying in work. Before joining Scope, Melanie’s previous roles included policy research and service user engagement in supported housing.