Meet the new boss: Kevin Doherty from Disability Action
In the first of this series of articles where we meet new senior managers in the sector, Scope interviews Kevin Doherty from Disability Action.
Kevin was appointed CEO of Disability Action in the summer after 10 years as operations director. He is well known outside the sector too from his previous career in hotel management: he ran Galgorm Manor and the Stormont Hotel amongst others.
He follows in the footsteps of the woman who he describes as an inspiration: Monica Wilson, one of the most respected figures in the voluntary sector.
He said: “Monica was extraordinary: she led the rights agenda for people with disabilities and was a tireless campaigner. She stood up for the respect and dignity of disabled people and had a huge impact at Stormont, in the media and in broader society.
“She pushed and pushed me to realise my own potential and I would not be in post today if it wasn’t for her. She is a remarkable woman.”
For Kevin, building on the legacy is about continuing to campaign for the rights, dignity and respect of people with disability and forging alliances and common purpose with other groups that have similar interests to build on and progress this agenda.
The backdrop is difficult: many people with disabilities were adversely affected by the recent debacle surrounding Work Capability Assessment tests and there is mounting concern about the impact of Welfare Reform, especially given Northern Ireland has the highest percentage of registered disabled people in the UK.
Kevin singles out three key areas where he wants to see more progress: transport; employment/employability and social care.
On transport the challenge is formidable: for example many people with disabilities who live in rural areas cannot access public transport and so therefore need an accessible transport service.
With employment there is still work to be done with some employers to uphold the rights of those with disabilities to have the same opportunities to employment as their fellow citizens: the Westminster Disability Minister Lord Freud did nobody any favours with his widely reported “not worth £2 an hour” comment.
And with the crisis in health and social care funding it will be imperative for Disability Action to combine with other interest groups to ensure decent services for those they represent. A particular concern is domiciliary care where Trusts are increasingly imposing 15 minute calls on care providers.
“Upholding peoples’ dignity and respect is critical, it is a basic right,” said Kevin “And these sorts of cuts undermine that.”
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