Disability Living Allowance Advisory Board

Who We Are

The Composition of the Board

The Board consists of a Chairman and not less than 11 and not more than 20 members all of whom are appointed by the Secretary of State. Our membership must include members with professional knowledge or experience of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, nursing disabled people, cleaning and medical practice.

Our Board must include at least 6 members who are themselves disabled and at least 1 carer.

All our vacancies are advertised and applications are welcome from both men and women, ethic minorities and people with disabilities from anywhere within Great Britain.

We are committed to making appointments based on merit, independent assessment and openness. All our members must subscribe to the objectives of the DLAAB and uphold our code of practice.

The members of the DLAAB also follow the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The Board's membership



Appointed to the Board in May 1997, becoming Deputy Chair in June 1999 and was appointed Chairman in May 2003. A physiotherapist and health management professional with over thirty years of experience of NHS therapy services in various parts of the country, she is currently working for a large charity caring for people with terminal illnesses and severe physical disabilities. With a special interest in rheumatology, she is a former President of British Health Professionals in Rheumatology (BHPR) and Chair of Rheumatic Care Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (RCACP), a founder member of both, and co-author of material for and a trainer, teacher and assessor on RCACP post graduate courses. Apart from other lecturing engagements in the UK, her wide experience has led to her contributing to overseas conferences as a speaker in places as varied as Latvia and South Africa.

Vice Chairman


Was appointed to the Board in March 1998. He is now retired from clinical practice, but prior to his retirement he was a Consultant Physician at Torbay Hospital, Torquay, where he was Director of Cancer Services. He has a wide general medical background, and was responsible for the care of patients with AIDS, as well as a wide range of malignant disease. In 1999 he was appointed as an assessor for the Professional Performance Review Panel of the General Medical Council, and has been involved in the setting up of revalidation procedures. In 2001, he was appointed as an assessor by the Commission for Health Improvement. He has a special interest in support services for patients with cancer.



Baker was appointed to the Board in March 2000. She works in a voluntary capacity for a number of organisations including Vice Chair of the national organisation Disabled Parents Network, member of the West Berkshire Maternity services Liaison Committee, member of the South Eastern Regional Committee for the Big Lottery Fund (formerly the Community Fund) and parent governor at her daughters Primary School. Her past experience involves working for the Thalidomide Society, serving on the Thalidomide Trust’s National Advisory Council and serving a year as Chair on the Management Committee at her daughters pre-school. She is a member of the Restricted Growth Association and is a DLA Appeals Tribunal member. Mrs Baker has congenital malformations of all four limbs caused by the drug Thalidomide.


Was appointed to the Board in November 1995. He is a Consultant Physician in Care of the Elderly at Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow. He has been a consultant since 1991 and has run stroke units in both Nottingham and Harrow as well as maintaining a general geriatrics practice. He is also actively involved in research in stroke. He is a member of the British Geriatrics Society and the British Association of Stroke Physicians.

Cooper, BSc Econ, HOLRCC

Cooper was appointed to the Board in February 1999. She is an experienced social worker initially employed by Manchester Social Services, moving into training, then teaching social work at Sheffield Hallam University. Her current work involves assessing the needs of children with disabilities for the Family Fund and the care needs of severely disabled adults for the Independent Living Fund. She also provides a social work service for people with haemophilia at Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham, is a member of the Appeals Service and acts as a part time social work tutor for Nottingham Trent University.


Holt was appointed to the Board in September 2001. An occupational therapist she has 28 years experience of working with both physical and mental disability. She is currently working with mentally ill patients, assessing their needs and providing care and treatment within a community mental health team. She was appointed in 1980 to the Mental Health Review Tribunal Service reviewing the detention of patients treated under the Mental Health Act. She has a particular interest in people with mental health problems and their re-integration into the community.

Howard, LLB, CQSW, MPhil

Howard was appointed to the Board in February 1999. She is working for the Disability Rights Commission and is also a freelance social policy analyst, undertaking research and consultancy for universities, voluntary organisations and think tanks. She has also been a policy officer at Disability Alliance and RADAR, researcher to an MP and adviser to two Select Committees. A qualified social worker with law degree and MPhil, she has been employed as a community social worker, welfare rights adviser and probation officer. She was formerly a member of the TGWU disability forum and TUC rehabilitation committee. She is currently a member of the Disability Employment Advisory Committee.


Was appointed to the Board in November 1995. He is Emeritus Consultant Neurologist and clinical senior lecturer at the Wessex Neurological Centre, Southampton University Hospitals. He has been visiting professor of neurological rehabilitation in Madison, Wisconsin, and visiting professor of neurology in Houston Texas, and in Sri Lanka where he was twice awarded the Gold Medal of the Ceylon College of Physicians. He has a special interest in neurological rehabilitation and is a Trustee of the International Spinal Research Trust. He is editor of "Spinal Cord" and has recently been asked to join the Advisory Board of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centre at Arizona State University.


Was appointed to the Board in January 2003. He is a Consultant Community Paediatrician in East London. He has special interests in childhood neurodisability, especially pervasive developmental disorders. As a council member and trustee of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, he contributes to setting national standards for Paediatric practice and training. He was formerly a member of the Appeals Service.

Oppenheim, BSc, MB, ChB, FRCPsych

Oppenheim was appointed to the Board in January 2001. She is a Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital Trust, and her special interests include liaison psychiatry, the assessment of children with attentional difficulties and family therapy. She is a professional advisor to the National Youth Advocacy Service. Dr Oppenheim is involved in the development of community based services for inner city Liverpool and the team is now based in a local Sure Start. She retains close links with paediatrics.


Playforth was appointed to the Board in November 2003. She has been a self-employed access and equalities consultant and trainer since 1998, and a lay member on Employment Tribunals since 2000. She has over 20 years experience as a volunteer, Trustee, officer, middle and senior manager in both the statutory and independent sectors, managing and developing public library services and equal access to them, and researching, planning and campaigning for full equality of access and inclusion in society for D/deaf and disabled people. Sarah is deaf.


Poole was appointed to the Board in March 2000 and re-appointed in March 2003. She has Multiple Sclerosis which has caused increasing levels of disability. A landscape artist, her past experience of committee work covers issues of health and welfare, provisions for sport and play and education through play for the up to five age group. She has understanding reached by living with a disability and believes access is essential to equality.

Douglas Ross

Ross was appointed to the Board in November 2003. He has worked in the disability sector since 1990, principally in the field of employment in relation to disabled people. He currently works for the Leonard Cheshire Foundation on their award winning ‘Workability’ project having previously worked for the RNIB and the Government’s Employment Service (now Jobcentre Plus) Disability Service. He is a former member of the British Computer Society Disability Group Committee and the Greater London Employment Network on Disability Working Group. He has been disabled since birth as a result of spina bifida.


Was appointed to the Board in January 2003. He is an academic rheumatologist leading an integrated team of eight medical and six nursing staff who deliver specialist care at King’s College Hospital. He also provides academic leadership for an integrated clinical and laboratory research team of nearly 40 research staff. The main thrust of his own research work is to improve outcome and reducing disability in arthritis by providing optimal medical care. Prior to joining the Board he had edited Rheumatology, the leading European specialist journal in the field for 5 years. He is heavily involved with patient groups including Arthritis Care and the Myositis Support Group and is a member of the executive of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance, an umbrella organisation of patient and professional groups.

Sensky, PhD, MB BS, FRCPsych

Sensky was appointed to the Board in April 2004. He is Professor of Psychological Medicine at Imperial College London, and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at West London Mental Health NHS Trust. Most of his clinical work involves psychiatric or psychological problems concerned with employment, or the psychological aspects of chronic illness, physical as well as mental. His research has focussed on the understanding and management of psychological problems associated with a variety of long-term illnesses, ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to schizophrenia. He regularly gives lectures or workshops to doctors, medical students and others on a variety of topics. He has a particular interest in evidence-based practice, and regularly runs workshops on this in the UK and elsewhere.

Westacott, Dip Couns, Cert Ed.

Westacott was appointed to the Board in June 1998. She is an employee counsellor and disability awareness trainer, currently working for local NHS hospital, community and mental health trusts. She is actively involved with several charities for learning disability and communication disorders in children and young people. Mrs Westacott is a carer for her son who has autism and is herself partially sighted.

Whitehead, RGN, RSCN, BA(Hons)

Whitehead was appointed to the Board in October 1998. She is a senior nurse at a teaching hospital in the North West, currently co-ordinating and managing the care of individuals with HIV and AIDS. She has extensive experience in the NHS including discharge planning, care of the elderly and general medicine. Mrs Whitehead has personal experience of caring for a disabled person and is a member of the Appeals Service.

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