What is your background?
I come from a working class background. My granddad was an engineer on the Tugs in East London, my father is a builder, my step mother works in accounts, my late mother was a barmaid and my late step father was a firefighter. I was born in Barking, East London and then, when I was 5, moved to rural Lincolnshire to be brought up by my grandparents who had retired there. I stayed with them until I was 13 when I moved back to Barking and Dagenham to live with my father and stepmother. I’m one of 6 children – sadly only 5 sisters survive as my brother died while homeless on the streets of London. I know the harsh realities life can throw at you from personal experience. I left home at 17, started work before becoming a mum at 21, and then was a single parent and later on the single parent of a disabled child. I’ve been the working mum, the mum on benefits, the bereaved daughter, mother and sister.
What got you into politics?
For most my adult life I went to work, paid the bills and didn’t really think much about politics. I just didn’t think I could make an impact. That changed in 2009 whenI had my youngest son early at 24 weeks. All of sudden I found myself on benefits, fighting to get housing that met his needs. I had to fight the system and speak out to get him what I believed was the right medical care – and, in doing so, changed Great Ormond Street Policy. My son passed away in 2013 and it’s his memory and the knowledge of what we achieved that gives me strength.
How did you become a councillor?
After nearly getting hit by a bus with my children, I campaigned for a crossing on Station Road. I managed to get the developers to pay for a temporary crossing, which was still there 3 years later. I finally realised I had a voice, that I could make a difference and decided to enter local politics to start changing things for even more people. I joined the Labour Party because it’s the party of the people and here I am now, City Councillor for Abbey Ward!
What motivates you?
Making a difference to people motivates me. There is a lot of work still to do. As Executive Councillor I do have a large portfolio that covers community safety and transport as well as being the lead councillor for health and wellbeing – but I love every minute of it. I love being able to using my own life experience to influence discussions around big issues.
What are you most proud of as a councillor?
Definitely my work on domestic abuse and domestic violence. I am a survivor and being a councillor has given me a platform to be able to speak out and make a difference to others. Now I have that voice, I’ll continue educating and talking about domestic violence, and highlighting the impact it has.
I really enjoy working alongside our partners to make a difference on community safety, and I spend a lot of my time going to residents meetings to find out about the issues that matter to them. I don’t have a policing background, but I am able to use my lived experience to work on a range of different projects and see things from a different point of view.