Run by and for disabled people
Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) is a thriving disabled people led organisation with 5000 members across Greater Glasgow – and counting! We are the biggest groundswell of disabled people in Scotland and a leading example of a grassroots community of identity.
Chief Executive Officer
Tressa is a lifelong campaigner for disabled people’s human rights, devoting her career to promoting participation and inclusion for all. She was a founder member of Glasgow Disability Alliance in 2001, and five years later, was appointed CEO. She has taken the organisation from strength to strength over the past two decades, remaining true to the initial vision of combating social isolation and focusing above all, on developing and drawing on disabled people’s own strengths.
GDA is a model of grassroots community activism, a 5000+ strong, member-led organisation which works to build confidence, create connections, and enable contributions among diverse disabled people. GDA offers everything from advice on welfare rights, to support finding work, to lifelong learning & training programmes. At the same time GDA promotes equality, rights and social justice, shaping and influencing policy, services & decisions, by sharing evidence, insights & data drawn from disabled people’s lived experiences. Tressa has a particular interest in the cumulative impact of discrimination, and has led GDA to create safe & inclusive spaces for all, with networks dedicated to rights & needs of disabled people of colour, disabled women, & LGBT disabled people, as well as support tailored for every stage of peoples’ lives.
During the pandemic Tressa worked tirelessly to reorient the organisation to combat the increased isolation and marginalisation experienced by disabled people who were amongst the worst affected ensuring that GDA delivered essential food and resources to thousands as well as digital connections, wellbeing & peer support. Tressa also positioned GDA to share lived experiences of disabled people with the Social Renewal Advisory Board for Scotland and Glasgow’s Social Recovery Taskforce, striving for pandemic responses to meet needs & deliver human rights. Today, GDA is working with renewed determination so that disabled people contribute to, and benefit from actions and measures to tackle the cost of living crisis, climate justice and to build a National Care Service for Scotland.
Tressa lends her experience & expertise to a variety of other organisations, including the Wider Action Committee of New Gorbals Housing Association; Self Directed Support Scotland and the OU’s External Advisory Group. Her passion for increasing participative democracy for disabled people is put to good use in her service as advisor to Glasgow City & Scottish Government across a range of areas, embedding disabled people’s voices, priorities and direct participation in policy development & service design. She is a member of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council for Women and Girls, the National Care Service Programme Board, Depute Convenor of the Disability and Carers’ Benefits Expert Advisory Group & Co-Chair of Glasgow City’s Disability Workstream.
Tressa has an MA (Hons) in Music and Philosophy and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Glasgow, specialising in community development. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Open University in June 2022 in recognition of her commitment to Public Services including her exceptional contribution as a campaigner for equality and human rights and her tireless efforts to improve the lives of thousands of disabled people.
Marianne has been a disabled person since early childhood. Marianne was a founder member of GDA before joining the team in 2010 and is now Depute CEO.
Marianne graduated from Glasgow University in 1994 with an MA in Social Policy and Psychology and has over 30 years’ experience in the voluntary sector, including delivering and managing employability, training and large service user involvement projects. The latter of these included managing a team of disabled staff and this experience has been useful at GDA where over half the staff team are disabled people. Marianne has extensive experience of working with disabled children, young people and their parents including international work. Marianne is particularly skilled in adapting and delivering training in creative, flexible ways and firmly believes everyone can participate when the right support is provided.
Marianne manages various GDA projects including GDA’s Learning, Digital Inclusion and Digital Employability projects. She also contributes to GDA’s Future Visions project and has additional strategic remits for Public Realm, Climate Change and Inclusive Communications. Marianne serves on a range of Glasgow City Council, Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland advisory groups, working groups and strategic groups, inputting the priorities of disabled people and working collaboratively towards solutions.
Marianne has been employing her own PAs for over 20 years and outside of work, she is passionate about social history, gardening, live music, and all things techie!
Office Manager & PA to Tressa Burke
Lynn is a proficient admin pro and joined GDA as our Office Manager in June 2018. Lynn has put over 20 years’ experience to excellent use in tightening up GDA’s admin policies and procedures and ensuring the smooth running of the office. Lynn has additional responsibilities assisting with aspects of HR and finance and looks after our team of PAs, from recruitment and induction to timesheets and training. She is also responsible for IT, organising large events and managing transport for the membership. You’ll often find her on the phone sorting out logistics! Lynn manages GDA’s small admin team and is also PA to our CEO Tressa Burke.
At the outset of the pandemic, Lynn managed the logistics of moving the GDA team to home working and helped to co-ordinate a massive wellbeing “check-in” engagement exercise with over 5000 disabled people. She also set up GDA’s Helpline and worked with the management team to rapidly establish GDA’s Lifeline food and resources supports, which ultimately provided support to over 2800 disabled people at the height of the pandemic.
Before joining GDA, Lynn ran her own business and did everything from building her own website to creating jewellery and events for her customers. She also has experience working for a social care provider in Glasgow where she was responsible for the administration team, HR and recruitment for the organisation.
Outside of work, her friends refer to her as the ‘organiser of fun’. She enjoys being creative and says that her main motivation is to make other people happy.
Admin & Access Officer
Laura joined GDA in March 2021 as Admin and Access Officer to support and service GDA’s busy administration and access needs across a range of delivery and support programmes.
Before GDA, she worked for an accountancy firm and has worked in a variety of administration roles.
Laura went to Glasgow Caledonian University where she studied Business and Languages.
In her spare time, she likes to spend time with family and friends, getting out and about walking, travel, going out for dinner and to concerts. She’s a big Harry Potter fan!
Admin & Access Officer
Gemma joined GDA’s Admin Team in October 2022 with extensive experience working in social care and admin roles spanning 20 years. Gemma has both professional and personal experience which she brings to the role, having been a carer for her dad and also being the parent of a disabled child. These experiences require a combination of skills and personal qualities which Gemma has brought into her role at GDA, including an appreciation of challenges navigating the world of health and social care and the importance of being an advocate and voice for her child.
Having supported disabled people who received social care from other organisations to attend GDA events many years ago, Gemma was aware of GDA’s work. She was delighted to have the opportunity to join the organisation and contribute to the vision and mission which she passionately believes in, i.e. to promote and support equality, social justice and human rights for disabled people.
In her spare time, Gemma loves catching up with friends and going to the beach as often as possible with her family. Gemma is passionate about all things medieval and geological as well as music and quizzing!
Head of Wellbeing
With almost 40 years’ experience in the fields of social care, disability and mental health, Sandra heads up GDA Wellbeing which was established as part of GDA’s response to the impacts of the pandemic on disabled people’s mental health and wellbeing. Over 62% of the thousands GDA contacted through Wellbeing Checks and who responded to surveys, reported a concern about declining mental health; over 90% were concerned about both mental health and physical health. Thousands were in crisis with access to services halted or reduced and Sandra worked with GDA colleagues, leading the establishment of GDA’s Wellbeing Service.
Sandra provides support to individual disabled people and to the team of Wellbeing advisors who support hundreds through telephone support and a listening ear for people. Emotional support and practical advice around coping strategies helps people cope, feel heard, and develop ways to boost their own health and wellbeing. Support also includes access to online peer support groups for disabled people. Sandra previously ran a mental health user led organisation and a Healthy Living Initiative – both with emphasis on mental health and wellbeing so she has much to draw on in this work.
In her time with GDA Sandra has led on programmes of peer support and capacity building specialising in working with older people using community development methods and approaches. “Community” and belonging are important drivers for Sandra as is her commitment to GDA’s focus on justice and equality using human rights based approaches.
Sandra works with many partner networks, making sure GDA members’ voices are heard by decision makers at local and national levels. A member of Glasgow HSCP’s ‘Maximising Wellbeing for Independent Living ‘, she is working to ensure that the experiences of GDA members inform efforts to reduce health inequalities; an issue which disproportionately affects disabled people. Sandra leads on GDAs work on Wellbeing, Mental Health, Social isolation and Loneliness, Older People and Human Rights. She represents GDA on ‘Scotland’s Action Group on Isolation and Loneliness’ and the ‘Older People’s Strategic Action Forum’ chaired by Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Equalities and Older People.
She also represents GDA on the board of Human Rights Consortium Scotland.
Sandra currently works part-time, usually Tuesday – Friday.
Tracy joined GDA as Wellbeing Advisor in March 2022.
She has a professional background in person centred counselling and teaching and has extensive experience as a practitioner, development worker and manager across a range of social care settings. This includes supporting children, teenagers and adults through stressful times related to bereavement, cancer and addiction amongst other challenges.
A high point of her career, (so far!), was during her 13 years at CLIC Sargent, supporting groups of young people with their recovery from cancer treatment for example, taking them on sailing holidays. More recently, Tracy worked in Quarriers Village and really enjoyed supporting diverse, disabled adults of all ages and types of impairments and conditions. Tracy feels privileged to build relationships and gain trust of people to support people who are facing huge challenges in their daily life.
In her spare time, (thirteen year old son permitting), Tracy loves to write songs and stories, cook, and get out in nature, sometimes even managing a bit of wild swimming in Loch Lomond, though she’s holding off until the water gets above freezing!
Fiona is the Community Navigator for Future Visions providing support, accessible information, informal advocacy, informal counselling and sign-posting to disabled people who need or use social care and who face barriers in navigating the system. The role goes beyond connecting disabled people to services and facilities because in truth there are often gaps in accessible or available provision. Future Visions therefore commits to working with people for longer to effectively navigate services, facilities and these gaps by also connecting disabled people with and to each other for peer support and to GDA’s own programmes and services.
Fiona has a long work history spanning nursing, commissioning, care work and addictions work. She was most recently a Case Worker for 10 years, supporting those facing addictions and taking pride in building and developing people’s self worth and confidence. She also provided opportunities with and for people to build a whole new lifestyle, including building aspirations and a sense of self worth. Many of her previous clients are now abstinent and working and this has been a long a challenging journey which required support, advocacy and collaborative working with people and partner agencies.
Fiona describes herself as a ‘nurturer by nature’ having worked in various social care settings in her career to date – homecare, palliative nursing and addictions. This includes supporting those at the end of their life, young people and those experiencing the sharp end of poverty and addiction. She has experienced both professionally and personally the barriers disabled people face when trying to access services and supports needed- sometimes at the most harrowing end of life stages.
In her spare time, Fiona loves to be outside in nature – she loves the Highlands of Scotland – and says any chance she gets, she would be on the North Coast 500. She enjoys holistic therapy, especially aromatherapy and Reiki. An animal lover and a countryside person, she sometimes takes her cat to the beach!
Digital Inclusion Manager
Hannah is now GDA Digital Inclusion Manager, having originally joined the GDA family in January 2019, when she moved to Glasgow from London to take up a role as Community Development Coordinator. In this initial capacity, Hannah worked closely on GDA’s participatory budgeting project, supporting disabled people to have their say in their local communities about how decisions are made and budgets are spent. Hannah also helped establish GDA’s Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) disabled people’s peer group and previously coordinated this group as well as GDA’s LGBTQIA+ disabled people’s group.
Throughout and since the COVID-19 pandemic, Hannah has headed up GDA Connects – a digital inclusion project – distributing hundreds of pieces of kit and connectivity to disabled people all over Glasgow and supporting them to learn to use their new devices. As Digital Inclusion Manager, Hannah coordinates delivery of GDA’s digital support, managing a team of coaches who are delivering hundreds of hours of phone, Zoom and in-person coaching, both 1:1 and in group settings. This support enables disabled people to grow in confidence and skills and get connected online. GDA Connects project also specialises in helping visually impaired people to learn to use technology, and is providing coaching in French, Urdu, Kurdish Kurmanji and Kurdish Sorani. Hannah’s all about inclusive, accessible hybrid meetings – ensuring people can participate fully in person and online – so ask her about this if you get a chance!
Hannah previously managed a charity for kids with Down syndrome, worked as a fundraiser for a personal safety and stalking charity, and was an associate at a consulting company. Hannah holds a first class Master of Arts degree in Development Studies from the University of Auckland, an Honours degree undertaken at Utrecht University, and an undergraduate BA double-majoring in Women’s Studies and Film, TV & Media Studies.
Hannah hails from a small island in the Pacific called New Zealand (no, it’s not part of Australia!), where she was actively involved in her local feminist community. She loves food, crafty things and exploring Scotland’s heritage.
Digital Learning Officer
Lewis began working with GDA Connects team in September 2021 as a Digital Engagement Worker, delivering one-to-one coaching to our members over Zoom during another Lockdown in Glasgow. After a year in the role, Lewis progressed to Digital Learning Officer and his role involves delivering face-to-face individual and group learning and coaching, in a hybrid manner, i.e. in person and on Zoom.
Lewis has drawn on his previous experience working in the music industry to support the Connects team to deliver digital inclusion at GDA hybrid events, primarily looking after the sound for those in the room and enabling those at home to participate and contribute equally. This has enabled GDA to continue to reach the highest standards of participation needed.
Lewis has a background in music and art and was a cabinet maker and shop fitter until sustaining a back injury in 2021. He holds a BA Hons in Sculpture and Environmental Art and enjoys employing creative problem solving to amplify the voices of GDA members and ensure that not only are they digitally included, but that digital inclusion helps them to secure greater equality and better life outcomes.
In his spare time Lewis is a DJ and musician, hosting dance music parties as well as painting the occasional fantasy miniature.
Digital Learning Officer
Jonathan joined GDA Connects team as Digital Engagement Worker in October 2021, engaging GDA members about their digital needs and goals and inevitably supporting people’s wellbeing in the process since this was during a second Lockdown in Glasgow. After a year in the role, Jonathan progressed to Digital Learning Officer and his role involves supporting disabled people to navigate the modern digital landscape including through face-to-face learning and coaching sessions, group sessions or remotely via Zoom.
Known as JB to friends and colleagues alike, he spent most of his previous career working in hospitality management, where he thrived on training and development. JB brings this passion for ‘upskilling’ and developing people to his role at GDA, combined with a commitment to inclusion and patience- believing that anyone can learn with the right support. Being an empathetic listener, and using a person-led approach to digital problem solving has been key to JB’s successful approach, as both a group learning tutor and individual coach.
In his free time, JB enjoys getting out into the hills for a hike, playing football or cooking up a storm in the kitchen!
Policy & Participation Manager
Karen is GDA’s Policy & Participation Manager. She has been involved with GDA for many years, firstly as a volunteer then Personal Assistant in her holidays from her day job of teaching. In March 2020, when we went into lockdown due to COVID-19, Karen joined a band of GDA supporters who undertook a massive wellbeing engagement exercise, calling GDA members to check-in on them and make sure they were able to access supports.
During this time, we had to suspend our successful delivery model of face to face, highly participative and interactive learning sessions and, in June 2020, Karen was successful in becoming GDA’s first online Learning Manager. This allowed her to put her educational skills to good use in establishing and developing GDA’s online learning programme. By late 2021, we were able to restart the face-to-face learning programme while continuing to offer online sessions, ensuring maximum opportunities to participate. During 2022 and 2023, GDA’s learning programme has offered an exciting and diverse range of online and in-person learning for members, enabling peer support and progression opportunities including having their voices heard on a range of policy and service areas which impact on disabled people.
During her time as Learning Manager, Karen became involved in supporting members to establish GDA’s policy positions and to promote these to public partners and the Scottish Government. These included Community Learning and Development, Climate Change and Just Transition. Karen also led GDA’s input on a gender budgeting project on the impact of the cost of living crisis on disabled women. This project has been co-delivered with Scottish Women’s Budget Group. Karen then took up the role of GDA’s Policy & Participation Manager in January 2024.
Previously, Karen was a Modern Studies teacher in secondary schools in Glasgow for 4 years and, before that, an academic researcher for 8 years on human rights related projects at Robert Gordon University and the University of the Highlands and Islands. Areas of research included children and young people’s rights, particularly on their right to have their voices heard; child trafficking into and within Scotland; and the asylum and refugee determination system and processes.
In her spare time, Karen enjoys reading, hillwalking, music and films.
As GDA’s Learning Co-ordinator, Kenny built on GDA’s Learning Programme, working alongside members and participants. Kenny loves working with and learning from members, with the aim of building a varied programme of learning opportunities that encourage socialising, confidence building, and engaging with local communities.
Prior to starting at GDA, Kenny worked as the Music Development Officer for Stirling Council, based at the Tolbooth arts centre. His role was to co-ordinate the music learning programme of workshops, classes and events for young people and adults, taking place both online and across culture venues, schools, youth groups and community spaces. Kenny’s interests were in establishing varied and high quality music-making opportunities for groups of vulnerable young people and those facing barriers to music-making opportunities.
Throughout 2020-2021 this included creating a library of interactive online learning activities and resources that were either designed with specific groups in mind or for more general use within school hubs and music departments. Working with professional musician tutors, these resources coupled with weekly live online music sessions were created to allow the enjoyment, sharing and learning of music while people were largely isolated. Kenny will draw on these experiences and skills to balance developing both online and in person learning for GDA.
Since 2024, Kenny has been GDA’s Learning Manager.
In his spare time Kenny enjoys writing and recording music with friends, photography, seeing live music, and going on outdoor adventures with his daft dog Roy.
Photo taken by GDA Member, Karen Gallacher.
Policy & Participation Co-ordinator
Meg took up the role of Policy and Participation Co-ordinator from June 2023 and plays a key role in the Future Visions for Social Care project, supporting and facilitating GDA’s Social Care Expert Group. Meg plans and delivers accessible capacity building support and enables members to speak out and contribute to co-designing reforms around adult social care – particularly in relation to the National Care Service. Meg also supports disabled people to draw connections between social care and other areas like climate justice and city planning for the built environment.
Immediately prior to this role, Meg worked for one year as GDA Community Development Officer leading on GDA’s Future Visions Photovoice Social Care Project. The Social Care Photovoice project combined Meg’s artistic background in photography with disabled people’s own expertise by experience of social care. Meg supported GDA members to use photography as a creative method to build individual and collective voices to convey disabled people’s lived experiences and key messages in powerful and creative ways which inspire changes to policy and practice.
Meg previously worked in the GDA Admin Team and during the pandemic years, directly delivered social care in both community and care home settings.
In her own time, Meg loves drawing, cooking new GF recipes and going to the cinema to watch horror!
Welfare Rights Manager
Ian is a Welfare Rights Manager with a long track record of maximising benefits and entitlements and helping disabled people to literally claim their rights. Ian joined GDA as a welfare rights officer in October 2018 as part of the Rights Now project just before it launched and so was responsible for shaping the project from the outset. As part of Rights Now, Ian provides an accessible benefit advice and representation service to those living in Glasgow who are disabled or have a long-term health condition as well as to families where there is either a disabled parent, disabled child or both.
Ian helps people by checking their benefit entitlement and also helps with applications, especially form filling. He also helps people to challenge benefit decisions that they are unhappy with and provides representation at benefit tribunals.
Ian has experience of providing benefit advice since 2011. He has performed various roles at Citizens Advice Bureaux in Glasgow as well as a welfare rights role at a local authority. He has lots of experience in providing advice and representation in relation to sickness and disability benefits.
Ian enjoys helping people to navigate the benefit system which involves finding out about rights and entitlements in order to secure them. He especially enjoys helping people to challenge decisions in order to obtain the benefit awards they are entitled to.
Welfare Rights Officer
Kevin joined GDA as Welfare Rights Officer in November 2021 to support the work of the Rights Now project supporting disabled people and disabled families i.e. families where either a parent or child is disabled.
Kevin has worked in the welfare rights field since 2016. Before joining GDA, he worked for South Ayrshire Council in their Information and Advice Hub for 4 years, assisting with all manner of welfare rights queries. He also has experience of working with the Scottish Welfare Fund in the decision making team where he awarded grants to a variety of applicants. Prior to this, Kevin worked for Simon Community Scotland, supporting with the roll-out of Universal Credit for clients in emergency accommodation and also at The Prince’s Trust, helping 16-25 year olds find employment.
He achieved an English Literature BA(Hons) in 2021 from the Open University which allows him to know obscure words and helps him to try to work out exactly what the Department for Work and Pensions are trying to say in their letters to disabled people!
Kevin loves all things fantasy and sci fi. Whether it’s watching shows about trekking beyond the stars, reading about songs of ice and fire or painting toy soldiers – he will be involved. Occasionally he does come back to reality to enjoy cooking and some hill-walking.
Linda is an accomplished Finance Manager with over 40 years’ experience, beginning her career in schools finance and then moving into the third sector in a range of projects at senior management levels: from a Recycling Project in Castlemilk to being a Manager of a Community Resource Centre with 17 staff. Linda was the founding Finance Manager at GDA and has been balancing the books for all of this time alongside other roles over the years. She has played various key roles at GDA starting the organisation along with Tressa Burke CEO in 2006 and rolling our GDA’s first learning programmes. Then, as more staff, projects and funding have been added, Linda eventually moved back to focusing all of her efforts on finance management.
Linda’s experience and skills have been essential in supporting GDA to be both financially responsible and financially accountable. Her outstanding efforts and astute skills have ensured that GDA has kept accurate financial records and has been able to plan budgets which outline clear commitments for delivery and also to manage cash flow – not always an easy endeavour with the challenges of grant funding! Moreover, she works tirelessly alongside the CEO to ensure that there is robust reporting to the GDA Board. This in turn enables effective governance and decision-making, including the Board having a good understanding of risks and planning mitigations.
Since working part time, Linda decided attended Glasgow University – undertaking the Bachelor of Arts Community Development Honours Degree. She completed her degree with distinction and graduated in 2022.
Linda is a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 7 and loves holidaying in Las Vegas.