United Response Founder and CEO Su Sayer honoured with new CBE, dedicating it to staff and people we support.

At United Response we were very proud to see our Chief Executive Su Sayer awarded a CBE for “services to people with disabilities in the UK” in the New Year’s Honours list. Su founded United Response and is still our Chief Executive today – our 40th anniversary year. She has been a tireless champion for the rights of disabled people, particularly those with learning disabilities, throughout that time.

As Su told our local newspaper when the honours were announced: “I feel very privileged to be included in the New Year Honour’s List. But I want to make it clear that this honour belongs to everyone involved in United Response’s work over the last 40 years. From our dedicated staff team and supporters, who work tirelessly to improve the lives of disabled people, to the people we support, who constantly inspire us and challenge us to keep improving the services we provide – I thank all of them for their work, this recognition is for them. It also marks a fantastic start to United Response’s 40th anniversary celebrations and I am thrilled for everyone involved.”

The award was given for all of Su’s achievements and those of United Response, the organisation she has led. Her nomination placed particular emphasis on her role in challenging the status quo on behalf of disabled people, as well as creating an environment where staff were able to unlock their potential and creativity.

United Response was founded to challenge the way things were done in 1973, and improve the lives of people with learning disabilities. At the time Su co-founded the charity, most people with learning disabilities were living in long term institutions, with few rights and limited opportunities to live a full and active life. The first United Response house was a bold new attempt to change that, by offering a community-based way of living to a few young adults. Although Su has now grown the charity so it supports over 2,000 people, she has ensured the same ethos has remained at the heart of our work.

Su has overseen many United Response efforts to improve the future for disabled people, including projects which have challenged the financial services industry to make money easier through a range of accessible guides, campaigns to tackle the bullying of disabled people and a hugely successful campaign to give people with learning disabilities a fair and equal role in our democracy.

As was reported on the day the honours were announced, Su is well known for her “campaigns to promote the rights of people with learning disabilities.” In the last year alone she has nurtured the development of the Campaigns Panel – a group of people with learning disabilities who speak out on important issues - which has produced an acclaimed report into the importance of support in their daily lives (Life Support) and another registering their hopes and concerns over the future, including funding (Our Future).

The Every Vote Counts campaign was created to challenge the fact that less than 16% of people with learning disabilities voted in general elections. Many were not aware they had the right to vote while others found information on democracy and voting to be inaccessible. United Response created accessible guides to democracy and campaigned for the three main political parties to release “easy read” manifestoes. They did this and the result of Every Vote Counts was that the numbers of people with learning disabilities voting in 2010 doubled and the campaign was shortlisted for campaign of the year by Charity Times.

This work will continue with the launch of Easy News, the first newspaper created in “easy read” especially for people with learning disabilities. This will be launched on 23rd January in the House of Commons and will kick off United Response’s 40th anniversary celebrations. Contact jaime.gill@unitedresponse.org.uk for more information.

As well as deserved recognition of the work Su has done in partnership with staff and the people we support, the honour also means that Su has a bigger platform from which to speak out on behalf of people with disabilities. She intends to use this platform in our 40th year and beyond, encouraging positive initiatives which promote equality and inclusion, and challenging injustice.

Jaime Gill, head of press and public affairs