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My name is Gail Ranford. I was born at the end of the 1950’s and my brother Gerard was born 2 years previously. He was my mum and dad’s firstborn and the people in charge at the hospital told them in the most awful way to forget about him. They said he was a "mongol" and they should go home and forget they ever had him. Thank God they didn’t listen. And so it all began…….

I watched my brother attend a ‘special school’ which was a residential institution. It was some big houses that formed a school which had no curriculum as all of the pupils were deemed uneducable.  The pupils' days were spent making rush woven placemats, wooden stools and crafts. I taught my brother to read and write basic words using my school books and some flash cards I made.

There were no welfare or disability benefits like DLA.  My mum, who was became widowed at the age of 46 worked part time and my brother went to a ‘day centre’ in the same place that he went to school. Some people went there as babies and left when they died.  My mum had to obtain a doctor ‘s note each year that stated my brother was ‘still suffering from Downs Syndrome’. This all affected me at an early age and I became a vociferous campaigner for better rights for people with disabilities and/or support needs.

I had my first daughter Laura, and then in 1989 my second daughter, Sophie was born. She was premature and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a circulatory disorder. My brother, Gerard, was 32 by then so you may imagine that the passage of time had brought about great change in the world of disability. This was sadly not so.  I have continued to campaign, strive for change and inform other families and self- advocates of their rights. In 2001 with the advent of ‘Valuing People’ the White Paper, the first real opportunity for choice, independence and control, I and my eldest daughter and two other family members,Les Scaife and Shirley Watts set up West Lancs Peer Support Group.  The purpose of the group was to inform and support families to access direct payments and further opportunities.  I later participated in the pilot scheme for the roll out of individual budgets in Wigan. I worked with families to produce a support plan and related budget that would meet people’s needs in a flexible and person centred way. 

People that know me describe me as passionate and hard working about disability rights. I am friendly and easy to talk to. I can work on line easily as in the evenings as that is often when I am up and thinking about things after usually a very active day. My family are all very close so that I can make sure that their care is co ordinated and I'm there for any problem and emergency. Disability issues have been a major part of my life and I will leave no stone unturned to get justice. I network well and can talk to others that I feel that I can offer a useful resource to families and self- advocates around the following subjects:-

  • Disability legislation and its implementation and interpretation.  Different local authorities can interprete guidance, adherence to law and established policy and procedures differently.  I believe we should have a transparent system that offers the same rights to all regardless of postcode or region.  I have a particular interest in this as I majored in Law at University.
  • Challenging contentious decisions regarding the re assessment and restructuring of statutory benefits.
  • Housing, eligibility for ISMI Mortgages, long term secure rental, preventing discrimination to anyone with a disability who wishes to rent from a private landlord.
  • Reassessment of social care packages, be it agency led care, direct payment, personalised budget and personal health budgets.
  • I am also a qualified trainer and I am excellent at research, interpreting documents and gathering information for cases relating to reviews and appeals. 

I feel that “You Know” will offer a vital, one stop accessible resource that finally puts all of the pieces of the jigsaw together.  Ultimately if there is something  ‘ I don’t know’ I will endeavour to find an answer.  I have a tenacious ‘can do’ attitude.

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