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Tara Mackings Awarded British Empire Medal

Updated: May 6

Tara Mackings has been honoured for her services to her community with the British Empire Medal, presented by South Tyneside community champions on behalf of His Majesty King

Charles III as part of his first Birthday Honours List since his Coronation last year.

Who is Tara Mackings?

Born with cerebral palsy, Tara's journey has been characterised by the pursuit of overcoming barriers and advocating for social inclusion. Leaving her family home at just 18 to enter the workforce, Tara encountered numerous setbacks, adversities, and prejudices throughout her journey. However, these obstacles only fueled her resolve to prove her detractors wrong, and her indomitable spirit became her greatest strength. Tara's determination remained unshaken, and in 2021, she organised a sponsored stand to raise funds for disabled members of the local community, inspiring them to lead a more active lifestyle.

Tara worked with young offenders for 15 years supporting families with re-offending until she was made redundant. After that she volunteered at Bliss ability charity for 6 months before accepting a paid position for 1 year via funding from the National Lottery to design and run a weight management programme for people with disabilities. This role then led her into community engagement with Healthwatch south Tyneside for 5 years. The job role involved liaising with key health and social care partners to drive change in specifically young people’s health services. Her role saw local and national change in young people mental health services, improving post 16 transitions for young people with disabilities and a bespoke young persons sexual health clinic in south Tyneside as well as giving young people a voice with one of the first young Healthwatch programmes within the national Healthwatch platform. She then worked as a manager at Healthwatch Sunderland for 2 years where she lead her team to deliver key strategic changes within Sunderland and the issues facing the city. The team under her leadership made many significant changes within health and social care in Sunderland including: improved hospital discharge, improved services for young people, improved ward care and improve breast cancer care accessible information for patients with learning disabilities and in 2023 the team were highly commended by Healthwatch England for the National change made to easy read cancer patient information.

Tailored Leisure

With a mission to break down barriers and eradicate social exclusion faced by disabled individuals, Tara channelled her own experiences, the experiences of other members of the disabled community and extensive regional research into creating accessible leisure, fitness, and tourism activities into a new endeavour. In 2019 Tara founded Tailored Leisure, a not-for-profit community interest company that offers accessible fitness, leisure and wellbeing products and services to the North East of England.

Her organisation is known in the North East for its ethos and vision to overcome the barriers and social exclusion faced by disabled people.

As Founder and Director, Tara used her time during the covid pandemic to develop, shape

and enhance our company’s services by consulting people with disabilities. This is how her ‘Sit to be fit at home’ was created. It was a, at the time, new programme that supported people with disabilities and long-term health conditions to access sessions online. Since then, we have grown to offer a variety of fitness classes delivered out of a variety of locations across the North East, with our main delivery site located in Fullwell. These classes are free to attend and include free food and drinks afterwards.

As a disabled mother with two SEND children, Tara knows first hand the challenges of planning an accessible family vacation. She was determined that every family should have the opportunity for respite, leisure and to make memories together. This is why in DATE she joined forces with Haven holidays to launch our first accessible short stay breaks for families in Berwick. The caravan, now named Super El, continues to serve families with unique needs through our new partnerships with the Red Sky Foundation and Holistic Thinking Holidays.

Tara is also deeply passionate about making leisure spaces more accessible across the North East through her Access Audit programme. We offer Access Reviews for businesses, charities and other not-for-profit organisations to improve the accessibility to local leisure and fitness facilities. We combine our service user feedback and our expertise to identify specific challenges that people with disabilities face when using these facilities. This assessment can include physical access (e.g., ramps, elevators, wider doorways), sensory access (e.g., signage, lighting, audio cues), and programmatic access (e.g., inclusive fitness classes). We then compile our results into a report for facility owners and managers so they can design and implement short, medium and long term solutions for making their spaces more accessible. This might involve making physical modifications, such as installing ramps, accessible bathrooms, and properly spaced equipment. It can also involve creating inclusive programming and training staff to be more disability-aware and accommodating. You can read all bout our Access Reviews on our Blogs.

Honouring Tara Mackings

Tara Mackings and Julia Robinson were both presented with their prestigious British Empire

Medals (BEM) by the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Lucy Winskell – the King’s representative – in a special ceremony at South Shields Town Hall, hosted by the Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor John McCabe.

The Lord Lieutenant said:

“It was wonderful to be able to present the medals to such worthy recipients. Their contribution to their local communities is outstanding. These honours are so richly deserved.”

The Mayor said:

“To be named for an award in the King’s Birthday Honours list is such an incredible achievement and I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to both Tara and Julia for their amazing work, particularly during what was an exceptionally difficult and challenging period for all. British Empire Medals are extremely prestigious awards and to see the passion and determination of these individuals recognised in this way is wonderful. On behalf of the people of South Tyneside, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them both for the amazing support they have given to their local communities.”

Congratulations to Tara Mackings BEM for her outstanding achievement after a lifetime dedicated to helping others, breaking barriers and advocating for disabled people and women.

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