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 polices 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 PA’s 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!
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 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
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!
Beinn joined GDA’s Covid outreach and wellbeing support efforts in July 2020. He has since worked with the GDA Connect team as a digital coach and now works with GDA members as part of the specialised Wellbeing team where he offers a listening ear and tailors his support to the specific needs of each individual.
Beinn has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for close to two decades so he has an understanding of the barriers disabled people face from personal lived experience. Beinn holds a degree in fine art and worked as technical manager for both art and live music applications. He has written and produced a pop opera with the artist Monster Chetwynd for Liverpool Biennial as well as serving as a director for local speaker manufacturer We Enjoy Sound. Sometimes he even likes to edit GDA podcasts 🙂
Currently studying to develop his counselling and psychotherapy skills, Beinn enjoys mountain walks, making music and playing video games.
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 1:1 phone coaching: 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 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, hill-walking and exploring Scotland’s heritage.
Karen is GDA’s Learning Manager and was involved with GDA for many years firstly as as volunteer then Personal Assistant in her holidays from her day job teaching. In March 2020, GDA had to suddenly halt our established and successful delivery model of face to face, highly participative and interactive learning sessions as we all went into Lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At this time 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. In June 2020, Karen was successful in becoming GDA’s first online Learning Manager, putting her educational skills to good use and developing our brand new online learning programme. Working with colleagues, Karen has been responsible for establishing and developing GDA’s online learning programme which delivered 18- 20 learning sessions per week until spring 2022 when GDA has also focused once more on those who are unable to get digitally connected.
To ensure an accessible and engaging programme both online and in person, it has been essential for Karen to co-design and develop this with members, tutors and GDA staff. A key factor has been putting Covid-19 safe protocols in place at members requests e.g. having access to fresh air or air filtration machines, taking LFTs, continuing with hand sanitising.
It has also been critical for Karen to work alongside GDA’s GDA Connects Team since over 60% of GDA members identified themselves as digitally excluded through GDA Lockdown engagement and research. Karen’s aim is to reach as many people as possible, either to get them online or supported to meet in person so that they are better connected and have opportunities to learn, develop and fulfil their potential, supported by GDA Digital Coaches, Learning Co-ordinator and GDA tutors.
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 various human rights related projects at Robert Gordon University and the University of the Highlands and Islands.
In her spare time Karen enjoys reading, hillwalking, music and films.
As GDA’s new Learning Co-ordinator, Kenny is excited to build on GDA’s Learning Programme working alongside members and participants. Kenny is keen to work with and learn 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.
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 and Participation Manager
Sophie joined GDA as Policy and Participation Manager in 2022, overseeing the Voices Team and our intersectional networks, working on the Future Visions project and supporting and facilitating GDA’s Social Care Expert group.
Her role focuses on supporting disabled people to have their say on policies, services and decisions that affect them. Amplifying disabled peoples voices is crucial to ensure lived experience shapes decision making at local and national government level.
Sophie first joined GDA in June 2020 as a Helpline Advisor during the pandemic. In this role, Sophie answered the incoming calls to our Covid-19 response helpline, providing advice, a listening ear and directing members to support with a variety of issues.
Since then, Sophie has worked for an MP in Westminster, working with disability charities, carrying out research and advising on policy issues related to disability. She is a History and Politics graduate from the University of Edinburgh and received her MSc from the University of Glasgow in 2020, researching women’s experiences of mental illness in modern Glasgow.
She has a background in mental health advocacy and peer support and is passionate about lived experience being central in decision making.
Sophie has a green thumb and loves tending to her houseplants. She also enjoys reading and loves all things related to political history!
Community Development Officer
Jamila joined GDA as a Community Development Officer, connecting with the BAME disabled community in Glasgow and developing GDA’s own BAME Disabled Members Network. This post was in response to GDA’s evidence – backed by wider evidence – that participation and in particular, online participation was lower for black and ethnic minority people and communities, reducing their opportunities for support. Jamila’s role involves engaging BAME disabled people, often communicating with them in their own language as she speaks 5 languages. Working with members, Jamila develops programmes of learning, peer support and capacity building. This includes supporting members to access ‘GDA Connects’ digital inclusion project, GDA Wellbeing project and other supports as required. As a specialist commuity development practitioner, Jamila collaborates with others to create opportunities to ensure that lived experience and priorities are heard in decisions that affect BAME disabled people – such as bringing people with lived experience together with policy makers and those planning, designing and delivering services.
Jamila was brought up in London and came to Glasgow 23 years ago.
15 years ago she lost her sight and had to adapt and change her world. She started voluteering with RNIB and subsequently secured a job as community development officer developing an outreach and engagement project with the BAME commuity. In that time she promoted the prevention of avoidable sight loss. She worked for RNIB for 10 years, running events, engagement and gaining extensive experience of community development work with the BAME community in Glasgow.
Senior Welfare Rights Officer
Ian is a Senior Welfare Rights Officer 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 theim . 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 rollout 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 expereince, 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 expereince 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.