Mencap in Northern Ireland's director to retire
Maureen Piggot, one of Northern Ireland’s leading disability campaigners, has announced that she is to retire as director of Mencap in Northern Ireland at the end of March, after nearly a quarter of a century in the job.
Honoured with an OBE for services to people with a learning disability in 2008, the South African-born director began her career as a teacher in special needs schools. Working with children, young people and adults with complex needs in South Africa, the United States and since 1980 in Northern Ireland, she has led Mencap in Northern Ireland since 1990.
Paying tribute to the work that Mencap does in Northern Ireland and Maureen’s role over the past 23 years, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap said, “Maureen has made a huge contribution to Mencap over the last 23 years, and has substantially raised the profile of learning disability in Northern Ireland during that time.
“Mencap’s vision is a world where people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to and included. Maureen’s dedication and determination to making this a reality has been an inspiration. I speak for all my colleagues at Mencap and beyond when I say it has been a privilege working with Maureen and we wish her the very best in retirement."
Making her announcement, Maureen said, “One of the things that inspires me most and gives me the greatest pleasure when I look back is the belief, ability and confidence I now see in a new generation of young people with a learning disability, who are speaking up for themselves, going to college, getting responsible jobs, doing things that most of us take for granted and living the lives they want to live.”
“Today there is greater awareness of what people with a learning disability can achieve than in 1990, and to me this is an incredible step forward and a real source of inspiration for the future. With the right support, people with a learning disability can lead full lives.
Positive change has taken place, more still needs to be done
“Society benefits when we see the uniqueness, character and ability in the individual and the contribution they can make to their local community. While positive change has taken place, more still needs to be done. Older people with a learning disability and their parents need greater support and there needs to be more flexibility, choice and confidence in day service provision. More opportunities are needed for people with a learning disability to speak out and for young people with a learning disability who are not in education, employment or training to be valued for what they can do.”
“My greatest happiness on leaving is knowing that we are able to replace Segal House Nursery with a brand new centre for children and families. The new community-based centre will give the children a greater opportunity to achieve their full potential in life by providing an inspiring place to play and learn. It will also provide their parents with the advice and support they need to help make this a reality, especially in those early years,” she said.
Maureen concluded by saying that being given the opportunity to make a difference alongside committed people who also believed in the difference that they could make as part of an organisation that has done so much for and with people with a learning disability, had been “a very real and great privilege.”
She will remain involved in learning disability issues in a voluntary capacity and will remain President of Inclusion Europe, the pan-European learning disability organisation of which Maureen has been president since 2011.
Strong and eloquent voice
Also paying tribute to Maureen, Brian Ambrose, Mencap’s Northern Ireland Committee co-chair said, “It is vitally important that people with a learning disability have a voice in Northern Ireland. “In Maureen Piggot we have had a very strong and eloquent voice for the last 23 years. After her years of dedication, my co-chair Annette Crawford and I wish Maureen a very happy, healthy and productive retirement. She will be missed.”