The fact that the 44 year-old mother of one has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around isn’t an obstacle when it comes to indulging her passion. “I may use a wheelchair to get around,” says Debra. “But it doesn’t define who I am and it certainly doesn’t stop me.”
So when it comes to going to motorbike rallies all over the North-west and beyond and camping out with her motorbike club friends, Debra is literally raring to go. Debra’s condition has worsened over the years and she admits that her mobility has become more restricted. As a result, she receives support at certain times of the day using her Personal Budget provided by the council.
“In the past I used to have care workers coming to help me at set times of the day,” she says. “I didn’t have a say in when they came or who it was and it was rarely the same person twice. I found it very limiting and impersonal. It made me feel helpless and dependent on others.” Hardly ideal for an independently-minded easy rider like Debra but Personal Budgets changed all that. By taking control of her own care package Debra was able to employ her own personal assistant, in fact she has two. And now Debra decides what help she needs and when. “I was involved in the whole process from deciding what I wanted through to interviewing prospective candidates and then arranging their hours and duties,” says Debra. “So I moved from someone who got care when they were told they would have it through to being an employer with my own staff. “It may seem a little daunting at first but you get all the help you need with the organisation and paperwork and now I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
So when it comes to packing up the tent and heading for the countryside on a motorcycle rally, Debra’s PA Carly Atkinson is only too happy to tag along. Carly, 20, lives close to Debra’s Winstanley home and works with her throughout the week. “Debra goes on the rallies a couple of times a year so she needs me to come with her, which I am happy to do,” says Carly. “It’s not what you might think of when you about the job of a care worker which is what makes it so good.”
When Debra’s not concentrating bikes, she works on a voluntary basis supporting others using the Personal Budgets scheme. “It’s really worked for me and there’s no reason it can’t work for others,” she says. “Each case is unique but it really does give you the option to decide what is going to happen in your own life. Now that really is freedom.”