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Introducing Councillor Rebecca Charlwood

After a varied experience as a councillor in Leeds, my new role as executive Member for health, wellbeing and adults is in some ways bringing my working life full circle.

University brought me to Leeds at the age of 20. It was a city I had strong family connections with and it is the place I have called home ever since. After university I was determined to pursue a career that could offer me more than simply the opportunity to add profit to a company’s bottom line. I wanted to know that what I was doing was genuinely making a difference to the lives of others.

Cllr Charlwood photo cropped

So, I became a mental health support worker. The local charity I worked for placed huge emphasis on the value of peer-to-peer support. I learnt to recognise how the lives of vulnerable people could be transformed through working with ‘expert users.’ My four years in that environment, supporting people with serious mental health issues after they were discharged from hospital, had a profound effect on me.

I went on to work for a national charity for a further four years as a quality officer, working across the UK. That time reinforced my sense of just how important it is that people receive the right support at the right time, in order to help them work towards recovery.

I had seen traditional, institutionalised care for those battling mental health issues in the 1990s and it left me deeply concerned. The contrast of then working alongside those approaching mental health with a view to promoting recovery was stark.

I later went on to do a Masters degree in public policy and management, where I learnt more about political theory. I realised I wanted to take an active role in politics myself and I joined the Labour party.

For me, getting involved in politics meant I could personally do something to help make sure the right people were making the right decisions about how best to support those who need it most.

I continued to work within the third sector, spending time as a UK compliance advisor for a care provider. But I was becoming increasingly committed to my political life and when I was encouraged to stand as a local councillor in Leeds I felt it was an opportunity I could not turn down.

Since being elected to represent Moortown and Meanwood, I’ve been given the chance to gain a wide range of experience. I’ve chaired the licensing committee and Plans East. I’ve also been Labour group whip. Alongside all of those responsibilities I’ve, of course, always continued to work directly for the constituents I represent. That means dealing with anything from lobbying for new bus routes, to tackling cleansing issues or protecting community green space.

Like any working mum, I’ve not always found it easy juggling my professional life with the demands of bringing up two kids. But finding ways to manage that keeps my husband and me on our toes – and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

I’m excited about what the coming months have in store as I get to grips with my new role. The portfolio deals with some of the biggest issues facing the city and I’m looking forward to working with what I already know is a great team of people.

27 May 2016