Caroline Tomlinson is the CEO of My Life. She lives in Lancashire with her husband Robert and three children: Joe, Rosie and Jacob. Caroline became involved in ‘service-land’ as her eldest son Joe contracted meningitis as a child and was left with a huge range of complex disabilities.
In her attempt to get a good life for her son, Caroline home educated Joe, developed a wide range of inclusive play opportunities, accessed a host of learning opportunities, got several user-led organisations off the ground (eg. The Young Person’s Service, Embrace Wigan and Leigh) and more recently My Life, which started out as a not-for-profit social enterprise and is now a Registered Charity (Charity No. 1167858).
Caroline was one of the co-founders of In Control and innovated the idea behind the Amazon/Ebay of social care, shop4support. Her professional career has been wide and varied, from starting out as a riding instructor, to a purveyor of fruit and vegetables. She then settled into working within ‘service-land’ to make an ordinary life, not just for Joe, but for the many people who needed support. Caroline has worked in local authorities within adults’ and children’s services, primary care trusts and the third sector in many aspects of community development. She has presented internationally, wrote many articles and has written the book ‘The Essential Family Guide’. She has also been a finalist for Inspiring Woman of the Year at the Guardian Public Servant of the year, and more recently she was named as only 25 Mothers of Inspiration in the world by Nesta.
Caroline has particular expertise in encouraging and motivating communities, families and disabled people to make a difference to their life through creativity, leadership, positive thinking and proactively becoming involved in policymaking. Her vision is that individuals with disabilities and their families should be in control of their own lives and should have real choices about the type and quality of support they receive.
Caroline is an experienced and qualified mediator and works with individuals, families and the social and health care sectors to work out positive solutions that bring good outcomes for all stakeholders. She has an excellent ability to think ‘outside the box’ and it has been said that Caroline is one of the few people who can apply practical thinking into a strategic approach for change. She is a great connector of people and believes that spending the time to build positive relationships provides the key to better outcomes for communities.
As a great connector, combined with her skills as a social entrepreneur, Caroline has motivated businesses and the commercial world to take their social responsibility seriously and has several examples of businesses supporting social enterprises in the UK. Her common sense approach has greatly challenged the traditional service system in England and as part of the work with In Control has impacted significantly on government policy. “Caroline inspires you to think differently and use both your heart and your head to change the way we provide services” is a quote that has been used many times.
Caroline is currently completing her MA in Voluntary Sector Management and Leadership and has been selected for a place on the national transforming communities programme, as well as working on her biography. She has recently launched a paper with In Control about Individual Service Funds.
Caroline’s prime interest is working with individuals in their communities to create good, sustainable lives for people through a personalised approach. She inspires, motivates and talks from the heart, but most of all makes it real as she lives the concept on a daily basis.
Read Caroline’s article about her personal journey