The Include Choir receives Queen’s Award 

From a crazy idea to a Queen’s Award

The Include Choir signing PeaceWhat if...

…I left my job as a safeguarding lead in the NHS, trained as a Makaton Tutor and set up a charity which combined my speech and language therapy training and creative skills to teach and raise awareness of inclusive communication. That was the thought stuck in my head while on maternity leave in 2016.

It was a daft idea, leaving the security of the NHS to work unpaid in a sector I knew nothing about. But the thought refused to go away; I had seen the lack of support for people with communication disabilities and the devastating impact that has on people’s lives:

  • as a speech and language therapist working with adults with learning disabilities and autism
  • as a safeguarding lead working with vulnerable adults with dementia, aphasia or other communication needs
  • as a daughter and granddaughter when my Dad had a brain tumour and my Grandpa had a stroke

The Include ChoirBut was it sensible to leave a regular income and strike out into uncharted territory, especially with young children?

Of course it wasn’t. But if breaking my neck and back six years earlier has taught me anything, it is that life is for living - and I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t try.

The Include Choir at NHS conference

Fast forward another six years, and is now a registered charity, based in Surrey, with a small staff team and over 50 volunteers working to provide community activities which promote Makaton signing and another inclusive communication skills. We raise awareness of communication needs in schools and businesses and provide training to help ensure that people with understanding and speaking difficulties get the support they need and deserve.

With the support of our volunteers, we run outdoor inclusive communication sessions, create easy read resources and devise training with our members. We now have not one, but two Include Choirs, which use Makaton signs, symbols, objects and more to make sure our members with communication needs are fully included and empowered.

Our volunteer team includes people with learning disabilities and autism who use or have used Makaton themselves - and without exception, we were all absolutely delighted to discover we’d been chosen to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this year.

Queen's Award for Voluntary Service logoThe Queen’s Award is described as the MBE for volunteer groups and, due to the sad death of Queen Elizabeth II, we are one of very last UK charities to receive it, making it even more special. We look forward to proving ourselves worthy of this honour and reaching even more people with Makaton and inclusive communication in 2023.

If you would like to support in our mission, any donation made between 29th November and 6th December via The Big Give Challenge Website will be doubled! Needed more than words alone can say (

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