Gavin Harding MBE

Politician and Advocate

In 2011 Gavin made history as the first person in the UK with a learning disability to be elected a local councillor. Four years later he made national news as the first UK mayor with a learning disability. He also works for NHS England as a Learning Disability Advisor. 

Since the 1990s Gavin’s been advocating for the rights of people with learning disabilities and autism, driven by his own experience of Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs). He joined advocacy group People First and works to ensure ATU patients are not over-medicated and receive high-quality, respectful care. He’s also on the committee investigating private hospital Winterbourne View, which was on a 2011 Panorama programme for the shocking physical and psychological abuse of residents. 

Gavin is a councillor for the 14,000 residents of Selby Northward, currently serving his third term. He was Deputy Mayor in 2014 and elected Mayor the year after. His priorities including better policing, more facilities for disabilities and young people, and attracting a wider range of local shops. Gavin said: “I campaigned for a pelican crossing on a busy road, along with 60 people protesting and blocking the road.”

Gavin strives to embed reasonable adjustment policies. In NHS England he has made huge differences in how people with autism or learning difficulties are recruited and supported, including creating accessible or easy read job application forms. Gavin co- leads on quality assurance, runs focus groups for in-patient’s secure units and sits on Yorkshire & Humber transforming care executive board.

Gavin was honoured with an MBE in 2014 and won a Learning Disability & Autism Award in 2018. He Co-Chaired the Transforming Care Assurance Board with the Health Minister and published guidance for the Ministry of Justice. Gavin has also created a local self-advocacy group – Voices for People.