Family Fund’s Salena Begley, MBE, has received her insignia from the Queen

In 2016 it was announced that Salena Begley, Family Fund’s Partnership Manager for Scotland, had been made an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours for services to children’s welfare. Last week, Salena attended the Queen’s official investiture ceremony at the Palace of Holyroodhouse - read on to hear about this special day…

How have people responded to the news of your MBE?

I've been really touched by the reactions of my friends, family and colleagues. I think it’s made them more aware of my work at Family Fund. I’m very passionate about working to support the rights of disabled children and their families, and becoming an MBE has created new opportunities to raise awareness of the continued need for and value of this kind of work. People from the Drumchapel area in Glasgow, where I grew up, have responded positively to seeing someone from the area being acknowledged for their accomplishments too.

How did you feel in the run up to the official investiture ceremony? 

I have an extremely busy life with work, family and volunteering commitments, so I was mostly concerned with the practicalities of the day and making arrangements! Whilst it was a happy event I did feel quite emotional though as neither my father nor brother is alive to have seen me achieve this honour.

How did events unfold on the day?

On arrival at the Palace the formalities were already getting underway and I felt really nervous. My guests, my mum and my two sons, Daniel and Aidan, were led to the Gallery, where the investiture ceremony would take place. Those of us who were there to receive an honour waited separately and were provided with guidance about the ceremony and what was required from us. It was at this point it was confirmed that it would be the Queen herself who would be holding the ceremony, which made me very happy and even more nervous!

Did you get the chance to mingle with other people who were being decorated at the event too?

Yes, I met some incredible people, including Paralympian cyclist and Rio Gold Medallist, Karen Drake, MBE, Mrs Jill Miller OBE, Director of Cultural Services at Glasgow Life and Dr Mary Hepburn OBE, the eminent Scottish obstetrician and gynaecologist who is known for her work supporting disadvantaged women.

Dr Hepburn is someone I have long admired as an advocate for the health rights of vulnerable woman and their children and as someone who sees beyond the labels that others sometimes place on people. She spoke to me about her work including a clinic she worked at for patients in Drumchapel in Glasgow. I’m proud to say I grew up in Drumchapel, where I now help organise the weekly parkrun event, so I enjoyed sharing that connection.

Tell us about the moment you received your award?

The investiture ceremony was an overwhelming and wonderful experience. The Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra were playing 'Skyfall' as I walked forwarded to be presented with the insignia- much to my boys' approval!

The Queen asked about my work in relation to children’s welfare.

I said what a privilege it has been to work for so many years with and on behalf of families of disabled and seriously ill children and young people both as a social worker and with Family Fund.

The whole experience was quite surreal!

What does it mean to you to have received this recognition for your work with disabled children and their families?

Knowing that the nomination came from Scottish Government’s Children and Families Directorate Rights and Participation Team was really humbling. Like so many others in this field I have always tried to do my best, but there are always lessons to be learned and there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving real change for families of disabled children - so I won’t be resting on my laurels!

I’ve worked with disabled people and their families since I was a trainee Social Worker, working part-time as a support worker with Key Housing Association, then at South Lanarkshire Council. I first joined Family Fund as an Independent Assessor, visiting families who had applied for grant funding, then became Country Development Manager for Scotland in 2010 and Partnership Development Manager in 2016.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to be invited into people’s lives and given their trust. Receiving this recognition has motivated me to continue to challenge myself personally and professionally. It’s also been an opportunity to acknowledge the steadfast support of my friends, to make them and my family proud, particularly my two sons.

What will you be focusing on next in your work in Scotland?

Making sure families of disabled and seriously ill children and young people in Scotland know of the grants and services provided by Family Fund – particularly those who may face significant barriers to accessing our grants and services – and building relationships with the organisations and individuals that support them.

I am also promoting programmes such as our Digital Skills workshops which take place on August 28 and 30 in Glasgow, and planning our next parent carer information event, in Hamilton on 29 August.

I will be working with others to ensure that the voices of families of disabled children are heard, for example in relation to the New Framework for Supporting Families of Disabled Children and Young People which Scottish Government is developing and the new Scottish Social Security System.

As a member of for Scotland’s Disabled Children (fSDC) Coalition Co-ordination Group, I shall also be focusing on our growing membership.

I will also continue to seek new opportunities and creative ways to work with others to improve opportunities for disabled and seriously ill children and young people across Scotland, to help them achieve their potential and realise their rights.

As I said before, I am not resting on my laurels!

Congratulations again Selena.