BAPS: Paula McGowan

We co-host an awards evening every year for Bl**dy Awesome ParentS (BAPS) with the fabulous team at My Family Our Needs. For the first two years, we focussed solely on bloggers but this year, we introduced an award for a BAPS who wasn’t a blogger.

You don’t need to blog to be a BAPS.

Paula McGowan won the award and in true awards style couldn’t be with us on the evening but she had pre-recorded a video of acceptance in case she did win. The applause was deafening.

We asked Paula to share with us more details about #Oliverscampaign – it is not an easy story to read but it makes it clear why the campaign is one we should all be engaging with.

What is Olivers Campaign?

Olivers campaign is a peaceful campaign. Its about working alongside the government and doctors and nurses in ensuring people who have autism and or learning disabilities have equal rights to the same quality health care as everybody else.

Its about putting them at the heart of everything they do, empowering them to be fully involved in their treatment. Its about making reasonable adjustments, listening and communicating with everybody involved.


This is a short version of Oliver’s story and how his campaign came about.

My teenage son Oliver was a vibrant young person who loved life and life seemed to love him. He was incredibly able passing all his school GCSE and Btec examinations. He was in training to become a future paralympian and was playing in the England Development football squads.

He was fit and healthy and yet he is dead.

We believe that Oliver’s death was highly preventable.

If the doctors and nurses were trained to understand how to make reasonable adjustments for Oliver (someone with Autism and a mild learning disability), they would have known how to adapt the environment to meet his needs. Therefore, there would have been no need to use a “chemical restraint” and he would not have had the NMS reaction to this type of medication.

When I arrived in Australia straight after Oliver’s inquest I sat down one day and wondered how on Earth this could possibly have happened to Oliver. It then dawned on me that the reason we had lost Oliver was simply because Doctors and nurses in the UK do not have any training in autism and learning disability awareness.

If doctors and nurses would have had the training to support Oliver’s medical, social and emotional needs effectively, they would have known how to adapt their communication, using humour to settle his anxiety in a crisis, and de-escalate the situation further

I strongly believe there needs to be a culture change in the way people with Autism and a learning disability are treated by NHS doctors and nurses. This needs to be led from the top down.

It is not acceptable that people who have autism and learning disabilities die for no other reasons than their health care needs not being met.

I believe that we must do everything in our power to prevent future deaths like Oliver’s from happening again.


I decided to start a petition in parliament asking for all medics to receive training in understanding and treating people who have autism and or learning disabilities when needing medical treatment.

I launched my petition onto social media and very quickly it gained 51,000 signatures. Petitions must raise 100,000 signatures for it to be considered for debate. I was gaining a lot of support from the public, but also from doctors and nurses.

I then received an email, telling me that Oliver’s petition was being called to be debated in parliament. This was unusual and raised a lot of interest from the media. I suddenly found myself being interviewed for the BBC live politics show, BBC news and several other news stations. Oliver’s story was reported in many newspapers.

Oliver’s petition was successfully debated in Parliament in October 2018 which gained cross party support.


I was then invited to attend several meetings with the chief executive of the National Health Service to discuss the training I was campaigning for. This again gathered further media attention and I found myself being interviewed for news and television shows again.

Following on from this I have been invited to support the NHS in developing a training programme for every person who works in the NHS to have different levels of autism and learning disability training awareness. I have requested the training to be in Oliver’s name as this would be his legacy.

The Consultation for this training has now been launched by the government. They are inviting everybody to be involved. For the training to be effective we need everybody to contribute. This training could save lives and at the minimum change the health care outcomes for autistic and learning disabled people.

Please have your voice heard and join in this vital consultation.

BAPS Winner

Being a BAPS winner meant the world to me as it felt like I was able to give the award to Oliver.

It has inspired me to keep going with Oliver’s Campaign knowing that I have the support of so many people.

It came at a time when I was feeling particularly low due to the nature of the investigations into Oliver’s death.

The Award felt like people were putting their arms around me, saying we are all here to help you fight for our most vulnerable.

Sometimes campaigning can be lonely and such a battle, but my supporters and followers have never let me down and I am eternally grateful to every single one of them.

Stay up to date

You can keep up to date with Paula on Twitter – @PaulaMc007

Thanks Paula for taking time out to write this post. We are behind you all the way.

Shining a light on BAPS

We are going to be sharing a series of posts from BAPS winners and BAPS (who haven’t even heard about BAPS) with a story to share.

Last week, we shared some campaign tips from another BAPS – Janet Williams over at INFACT

We want to share their stories and tips with you to make you feel inspired. We want you to know that parents can – and do – make a difference.

We truly are Bl**dy Awesome ParentS.

If you are a Bl**dy Awesome Parent, with a story to share then please get in touch. Email

Debs Aspland

Mum to three great kids, each with a different SEN. Transplanted from the NW to the SE. Co-founder and Director of Bringing Us Together

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