I first became a Mencap trustee in 2015. I knew that Mencap runs services to help people find jobs so I went through the employment service in order to boost my skills and experience. I was told about the trustee role and I was very interested to find out a bit more about it.
Mencap also has housing services, summer schemes and youth clubs, and I wanted to have a better input into the organisation.
As trustees, we need to know a lot about the charity. We need to know about the law. And we need to know what’s happening throughout Mencap. It is a very serious job, because we have to look after the organisation and make sure it’s doing what it’s meant to be doing.
Being a Mencap trustee means a lot to me. I take my role very seriously.
For a person with a learning disability it is a very big achievement to get to trustee level because it is a big responsibility. Ok, I have a learning disability and I do have support, but if something goes wrong I am still responsible. It’s on my shoulders as well. And we have to act on it quickly.
The best thing about being a trustee is being in the thick of all of it. I like to be involved. When somebody says ‘What do you do?’ and I say ‘I’m a trustee for Mencap’, they say ‘Wow. That is a really responsible role’. People are amazed.
People have this perception that someone with a learning disability cannot do this role. But we can.
As someone with a learning disability, I bring something to the board that the other trustees cannot. I bring my expertise of a person with a learning disability, so I have a very good insight into what happens in everyday life. We’re using our expertise to inform the board. It’s good to have a diverse, inclusive board of trustees.
As a trustee, I’ve had to learn new skills. At the board you have to know exactly what you want to say. I just needed to learn how the board worked and what happened in the meetings. It is a very responsible job and I want to get it 100% right so I needed to learn how the trustees and the executive team work together. I’ve seen and heard things that I hadn’t been exposed to before, so that was a bit of a learning curve for me.
People tell me that I am getting more confident about speaking up at the board.
At the start I needed to know exactly what I was talking about before I spoke, but I think I built up my confidence to say ‘This is wrong’ or ‘Yes, I agree’.
One particularly exciting thing I have worked on as a trustee was negotiating with the board on how they work with the learning disability advisory forum. I have talked to the board about inviting the trustees to the forum. And inviting people from the forum to come and observe a board meeting. The benefit is the people on the advisory forum have an insight into what the board does and they can talk to trustees really freely. It works two ways.
I’m excited about the future at Mencap. It’s going to get bigger. It’s going to get better. It’s going to get more exciting with the different projects.
The way I look at it is Mencap do listen to people with a learning disability, but there could be more talking and putting it into action.
If someone is thinking about becoming a trustee, I would say, if you’re passionate about the organisation and you want to make sure it’s doing what it’s meant to be doing, you might want to become a trustee. A lot of work is involved, but it’s worth it.
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