Congratulations to Salena!

It was announced in the New Years’ honours that Family Fund’s Salena Begley has been awarded an MBE for services to children’s welfare. Salena is Family Fund’s Partnership Manager in Scotland. Before the announcement became public, we caught up with Salena to find out more about the award and what it means to her.

How does it feel to be told you have become Salena Begley MBE?

It feels unreal and exciting, and I’m shocked and pleased as well.

How did you find out?

I came home one day and there was a letter that said “On Her Majesty’s Service” on it, so I thought perhaps I was being called for jury duty or was in some severe trouble! I opened it and had to read it about five times before I could properly take in what it was saying.

So that includes things you’ve done while working here at Family Fund but also things you did before?

I’m not absolutely sure. It had my Family Fund job title on it, so I think it’s particularly for that. However, I’d like to think of it as covering things I’ve done previously too.

Do you know who nominated you?

Well I’ve read up on it and I suspect - but don’t know - that it could be a parent/carer that I previously co-worked with. They know the passion that I have for my job and that it means more to me than just a job.It means a lot to me that someone went to the trouble of nominating me and that the nomiantion was supported, I’m very grateful to whoever did that.

How did you come to work for Family Fund?

I’m a social worker by trade and I worked for many years for South Lanarkshire Council in the children’s disability team. My youngest child was coming up to school age and my colleague had been at a Family Fund event in Edinburgh and was  told by the then-country-manager that they were looking for Independent Asssessors. I was part time in my old job so I was lucky enough to have some time to come and work with  Family Fund. Some months in, my predecessor left and I stepped into her job, and the rest is history.

What kind of things do you do on a daily or weekly basis?

It’s quite a varied post, as well as co-working on pieces of work with Family Fund colleagues,  I spend quite a lot of time working with other organisations. I know a lot of my colleagues so well, and it’s a really satisfying element of the job that you get to meet a lot of really good people and positive organisations whom I can work with, to try and make make sure that families have the right support and information. We could be partnering to set up iPad training sessions for families or encouraging consistent signposting to families that might be eligible to apply to us.

I work to try and ensure that the rights and needs of families of disabled children remains a priority in terms of new policy and legislation, so what families tell us filters through to decision makers. I also do things like attend relevant Cross Party Group meetings at the Scottish Parliament and meet with elected representatives like MPs or MSPs. I’m a member of the Scotland Disabled Children’s Coalition coordination group and attend Child Policy Officer’s Network meetings. No day or week in this role is the same and I like that.

What would you say that’s the best thing about your role?

I think the most important element of the role is working with families, colleagues  and people from other organisations to try and bring about positive change for disabled children and young people and their families. Having been a social worker, it’s always been a fundamental part of what I do.

So what happens next? You have an MBE, do you have to do anything? Is there a process?

I may need to do some shopping for an outfit, which will be a terrible thing to have to do. Apparently - so it said in the letter I received - I shall receive an invitation to an investiture where I’ll be awarded the MBE by a member of the Royal Family!

Thanks Salena and congratulations again.