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.
Karen was involved with GDA for several years as volunteer then Personal Assistant in her holidays from her day job teaching before joining GDA on a full-time basis in May 2020. During the first Lockdown, Karen became GDA’s first online Learning Coordinator.
COVID halted GDA’s previous delivery model of face to face, highly participative and interactive learning sessions. Working with colleagues, Karen has been responsible for establishing and developing GDA’s online learning programme which is now delivering 18- 20 learning sessions per week. To ensure an accessible and engaging programme, it has been essential for Karen co-design and develop this with members, tutors and GDA staff.
It has also been critical for Karen to work alongside GDA’s GDA Connects Team since over 60% of GDA members were identified as digitally excluded through GDA Lockdown engagement and research. Karen’s aim is to reach as many people as possible, to get them online, connected and learning, supported by GDA Digital Coaches.
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.
One of GDA’s founder members, Tressa has been CEO since 2006, steering GDA from its fledgling vision of supporting disabled people’s voices and tackling social isolation in 2001, to the multi-award-winning community of 5000 it is today. For over 25 years, Tressa has held senior leadership roles in third and public sector organisations developing people led programmes which build on disabled people’s strengths and increase capacity to participate and contribute to their own lives, communities and wider society. During COVID, Tressa has led GDA’s Resilience and Recovery response to COVID, adapting all GDA supports and programmes and establishing new services including GDA’s Lifeline- delivery of essential food and medication, GDA Wellbeing and GDA Digital supports.
A disabled person herself, Tressa has expertise around equalities issues, particularly disability equality as well as the cumulative impact of multiple discrimination and intersectional impacts e.g. disabled women and disabled LGBT people.
Through GDA, Tressa acts as strategic collaborator with and advisor to both Glasgow City Government and Scottish Government across a range of areas including participative democracy. She is currently a member of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council for Women and Girls, the National Group working on Participatory Budgeting and is Deputy Chair of the Disability and Carers’ Benefits Expert Advisory Group. Tressa is also a member of the Scottish Government Social Renewal Advisory Board and Glasgow City Council’s Social Recovery Task Force, responding to the impact of COVID.
Marianne has been a disabled person since the age of 7. She is Depute CEO of GDA and strategic lead for GDA’s programmes supporting young disabled people. Marianne was a founder member of GDA before joining the team in 2010.
Marianne has over 30 years’ experience in the voluntary sector as a volunteer, paid worker and Board member of several key disability organisations including GCIL, Arthritis Care, Update and Equal Say. She is still a Board Member of GCIL.
Marianne’s passion is working with young disabled people and has extensive experience of project work with disabled children, young people and their parents including international work. She is particularly skilled in adapting and delivering training in creative and flexible ways to ensure everyone can participate.
She trained as a peer educator in sex education and sexual health and was a co-writer of a book for disabled people about relationships and sexuality which included practical advice…!
Marianne has written Easy Read documents for ILiS Project, Scottish Greens, EHRC, Scottish Government and others. Other paid work includes significant experience in accessible events organisation, designing and delivering training, and mentoring disabled people to return to/remain in employment.
During 13 years working for Leonard Cheshire Disability, Marianne managed a UK wide service user involvement team of 20 disabled staff. During this time she developed considerable expertise around Access to Work – which supports disabled people to access funding for equipment, training and personal assistance to remain in paid employment.
While at LCD, Marianne worked on the development, design and implementation of operational policy, including Service User involvement in this process. Her team won a “National Excellence Award” for SU Involvement. Along with a colleague she designed a programme of mandatory training for operational staff to enable them to build skills to communicate with disabled people who use AAC and/or are “non-verbal”. This programme won a UK National Training Award.
Outside of work, Marianne is passionate about social history and is currently researching the history of her street and local area. She loves Doc Martens, going to music gigs, Sci-fi and confesses to being a bit of an IT geek!
Office Manager & PA to Tressa Burke
Lynn is our Office Manager, who joined GDA in June 2018. With over 20 years experience, Lynn ensures the smooth running of the office and looks after our team of PA’s. She is also responsible for IT, organising large events and managing transport for the membership. You’ll often find her on the phone! She is also PA to our CEO Tressa Burke.
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.
PA to Marianne Scobie
Miriam joined GDA in 2017 and is Marianne’s PA. Prior to that, Miriam worked as one of our PAs, helping out at larger GDA events while volunteering at the Ayrshire Hospice. She did languages at Strathclyde University.
As Marianne’s PA, Miriam manages Marianne’s diary and supports the administration team with answering queries on the phone and on social media. She is often out and about at conferences and events, telling others about the work of GDA. She also supports the GDA’s work with young disabled people.
Miriam loves animals and has three pet rats at home. She also likes Japanese food, Netflix, reading and makeup.
Welfare Rights Officer
Ian joined GDA as a welfare rights officer in October 2018 as part of the Rights Now project just before it launched. As part of the project, Ian has assisted to provide an accessible benefit advice and representation service to those living in Glasgow who are disabled or have a long-term health condition.
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. He especially enjoys helping people to challenge decisions in order to obtain the benefit awards they are entitled to.
Welfare Rights Officer
Susan joined GDA in September 2019 as a Welfare Rights Officer with the Rights Now! project. She gives advice on welfare benefits and provides support all the way from initially completing forms to tribunal representation. Her background is in Citizens Advice Bureau work, and outreach work within the Glasgow North East Recovery Community providing them with welfare advice and support. She has also previously worked in disability employability, supporting people to find fulfilling employment on a paid or voluntary basis.
In her spare time, she likes to spend time with her daughter, son and her cats! She also enjoys walking in parks and the countryside.
Communications and Policy Officer
Cara joined GDA in February 2019. She has over 20 years experience working for various organisations in the voluntary sector predominately doing communications and policy work. At GDA, she is responsible for the website, social media accounts and e-bulletins that go out to our stakeholders. She’s also involved in the organisation’s policy work.
She worked in London for 10 years prior to moving back up to her home town of Glasgow where she’s been resident for the past 10 years. Previous employers include the University of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow where she worked as a Communications Officer.
In her spare time, Cara likes to read and enjoys the outdoors.
Sandra joined team GDA in 2013, with around 30 years’ experience in the fields of social care, disability and mental health. She feels very much at home at GDA, with our focus on justice and equality using human rights based approaches.
Sandra is responsible for GDA’s ‘Future Visions for Social Care’ project which offers a programme of short-term intensive support, modelled on the landmark Self Directed Support Act 2013. It empowers GDA members to identify goals, overcome barriers, make choices and take control of their lives, in relation to the support they need. Sharing these successes with allies, services, decision-makers and most importantly, other disabled people, Future Visions highlights and champions what can be achieved with choice, control and the right support.
In addition, Sandra links strategically with a ‘A Connected Scotland’ through Scotland’s Action Group on Isolation and Loneliness, A Fairer Scotland for Older People, Human Rights Consortium Scotland and works with many partner networks, making sure GDA members’ voices are heard by decision makers at local and national levels.
Brian leads on GDA’s work on employability and welfare reform. He has over 30 years of experience in offering employability supportwhich was recognised in his contribution to the Scottish Government Expert Advisory Group tasked with the production of the Employment Action Plan to halve the disability employment gap. Brian is working with a range of employers, partners and stakeholders to implement best practice in the recruitment and retention of disabled people.
Brian manages the Rights Now welfare rights project. He supports GDA members to ensure that the voices of disabled people inform policy and practice in areas such as poverty, social security, adult protection and hate crime.
A member of Glasgow’s Hate Crime Working Group and Chair of the local Network of Third Party Reporting centres he is working to ensure that the experiences of disabled people inform efforts to reduce disability hate crime. He represents GDA on the national Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Group that is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government.
Community Development Manager
Isla has been involved in the Disability Rights movement for 10 years, working with Disabled People’s organisations in Russia and Norfolk, while studying Sociology and Community Development.
She joined GDA in 2015 in a dedicated role supporting GDA members to develop their collective voice through our Drivers for Change network.
Isla now heads up our Active Citizenship team, who run collective voice programmes with our Social Care Expert Group, Participatory Budgeting champions, LGBTQ and BME members’ groups. This fantastic team supports disabled people to connect directly with power-holders (such as Government or Council) to speak out and share lived experience, influence change, break down barriers and drive forwards equality and human rights.
Isla produces accessible briefings for our members on a range of policy issues, and helps feed members’ views back into the policy process. She is passionate about food, sports, nature and creativity, and how these help with mental health and wellbeing.
Community Development Coordinator
Hannah joined the GDA family in early 2019, when she moved to Glasgow from London. As a community development coordinator, Hannah has been working closely on our participatory budgeting project, supporting disabled people to participate and have their say in their local communities. Hannah also helps coordinate the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) disabled people’s peer group and the LGBT+ disabled people’s group.
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 Master of Arts degree in Development Studies from the University of Auckland.
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, board games and utilising her Historic Scotland membership card.
Community Development Coordinator
Ruth has been part of the team at GDA since October 2015, and worked as Community Development Co-ordinator since January 2018. Ruth is a member of the Active Citizenship Team, working alongside Isla and Hannah on our Drivers for Change network and local area-based participation work. Ruth co-led our 2018 Participatory Budgeting action research project, Budgeting for Equality, supporting teams of Drivers for Change members to carry out interviews across Glasgow. She is currently supporting groups in Milton and Pollok to lead on their own projects funded through Participatory Budgeting, including the Pollok Access Fund and various community events in Canal Ward. Ruth also coordinates our Young Drivers for Change network, supporting young GDA members to have their say on policies and services that affect their lives.
Ruth previously worked in northwest France teaching English in secondary schools. She has been involved in a number of grassroots campaigns working to make Scotland a better place for all.
In her spare time Ruth loves travelling – around Scotland and further afield! – cooking, and watching films.
Linda has been keeping GDA’s cogs turning since we first received funding in 2008. She has worked in the Third Sector for over 20 years: from a Recycling Project in Castlemilk to being a Manager of a Community Resource Centre with 17 staff. She first worked with Tressa Burke at the Gorbals Community Forum for 5 years before finally working at GDA.
Since working part time over the last 9 years Linda decided to attend Glasgow University – undertaking the Bachelor of Arts Community Development Honours Degree. She is now on her 3rd year and enjoying every minute, although there are the dreaded ‘words’ to contend with, instead of figures. She also has a placement within the community, to carry out her CD practice work for her University Degree, which keeps her very busy and abreast of current issues at ground level.
Linda is a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 7 and loves holidaying in Las Vegas.
Laura joined the GDA team in February 2019 having been previously Administrator of a large Care Home. She took up post as Administration and Finance Officer, supporting Lynn with administrative duties and Linda with finance administration. Laura quickly became an expert in coordinating access needs of GDA members taking on the role of Admin and Access Coordinator supporting members on the phone, in person at the office and organising taxis, accessible information and communications.
During COVID Laura has stepped up to the role of Resource Co-ordinator, working collaboratively with other GDA staff and partners to coordinate GDA’s “Resilience Response” and make sure no disabled people are left behind. The initial role involved working alongside disabled people who had fallen through other gaps in shielding and provision to identify needs, connect to other services where available and coordinate delivery of food, medication and other vital resources. The next phase will be to support with transitional arrangements by connecting disabled people into services- including food co-ordination and delivery at community level where these are accessible and can meet need. Laura’s role involves working with disabled people to tackle the barriers they face to food insecurity which is about money but also transport, social care and access to the environment.
Laura’s favourite things to do are read, travel and watch movies (especially Marvel ones) and she couldn’t go a day without listening to music or having a cup of tea.
Lauren joined GDA in October 2018 and held roles in both Admin and as a Personal Assistant whilst completing her Master’s degree in Health Psychology. At the outset of Lockdown, Lauren joined the newly founded wellbeing team to meet the increasing mental health and wellbeing needs of disabled people facing extreme isolation as well as cuts to their support needs.
In her role as a Wellbeing Adviser, Lauren provides a check in service to GDA members, providing wellbeing support by offering a listening ear, talking through relaxation and coping techniques and encouraging people to stay as well as possible. Lauren, alongside Krystyna, develops and facilitates a range of online wellbeing sessions designed to help members with a range of issues such as anxiety, sleep hygiene and pain management.
Lauren holds a degree in Psychology with Master’s degree in Health Psychology. She previously worked for Glasgow Centre for Independent Living where she helped disabled people recruit their own PA’s. Lauren has also volunteered as a befriender for young disabled people through Volunteering Matters.
In her spare time, Lauren runs a small baking business. She also loves to read and spend time with family.
Admin & Access Co-ordinator
Leanne joined GDA In July 2020 as Admin & Access Co-ordinator supporting Lynn with administrative duties and calls. Prior to GDA, she worked as a sales support administrator for a fleet management company.
She has a background in Wedding and events, having worked as a wedding executive, before moving to Australia for a year where she worked in a front office and admin role within a large hotel complex.
Leanne did Events Management at University and achieved an honours degree. She has a passion for fundraising, having organised and participated in many fundraising events throughout the years.
Leanne is a huge animal lover and enjoys spending time outdoors with her dog Jazz. She also enjoys travelling and spending time with friends and family.