Philomena McCrory retires as CILNI’s first Chief Executive after 17 years
At the end of February, Philomena McCrory retired from her leadership position with our organisation. Philomena has been with CILNI since we started in 2001 with two staff in a small start-up office within the NICVA building in Duncairn Gardens, North Belfast with an initial service contract from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (Belfast HSCT). Since then as Manager, Director and finally Chief Executive, she has overseen our growth into a regional organisation as we expanded with contracts obtained from the South Eastern, Southern, Northern and Western HSCTs involving the opening of regional offices in Armagh (2004), Omagh (2007) and Magherafelt (2008). CILNI currently has 26 permanent full and part-time staff in its 4 offices.
Philomena, with Jackie Magee of the HSCB, at our AGM in November 2017
Other CILNI highlights under Philomena’s leadership include:
- The establishment of a specialised, tailored payroll service, with our partners Pauley Business Services (PBS), for service users following a successful pilot in 2003. The service currently serves the needs of 1800 disabled clients, who employ some 8000+ personal assistants to provide their personal care and support.
- The move in 2010 of our Head and Belfast office to a modern office complex, fitted out to our requirements, in South Belfast.
- The migration in 2016 of the payroll service from an outsourced service, with PBS, to an integrated in-house service.
- Winning the regional tender in 2016 to the NI Health and Social Services Board (HSCB) for the three-year contract to provide advice and support to direct payments and self-directed support users throughout the province.
Her friend and founding board member, Angela Hendra, remembers first meeting Philomena and the formation of CILNI:
“.I first got to know Philomena well in 1996 when we were both selected to travel to USA on a study tour to look at Disability Programmes throughout the United States.
We had expressed an interest, if the opportunity arose, to visit the Centre for Independent Living in Berkley, California and learn about the independent living movement. This movement, which has its origins in the US Civil Rights activists’ movement, started in Berkley in the late 1960s promoting a way of looking at disability and society in which people with disabilities work for self-determination, self-respect and equal opportunities. The movement argues that people with disabilities are the best experts on their needs and therefore they must take the initiative, individually and collectively, in designing and better promoting solutions.
We were aware that the struggles of disabled people had in the US in the Sixties onwards in accessing Education, Employment and other services in the States, was also the case in the UK. The emergence of the Independent Living Movement came to inspire similar movements throughout the world, and particularly in Europe, which saw the establishment of similar Centres for Independent Living in the 80s and 90s.
On our return, a group of like-minded disabled people set up a steering committee to establish a Centre for Independent Living in Northern Ireland. Philomena was very much to the forefront of this initiative. She worked tirelessly influencing both the Department of Health and Social Services and the Eastern Health and Social Services Board to introduce direct payments for disabled people. Initial funding was secured in 2001 to set up a Direct Payments support scheme in Eastern Area.
A Management Board of disabled was created and Philomena was appointed Scheme Co-ordinator, through an open recruitment process. An Office was opened in Duncairn Gardens and for many months Philomena worked alone setting the service up. She reached out to disabled people, to the health and social services and professionals. The Centre for Independent Living Belfast soon became the Centre for Independent Living NI as the service expanded throughout the Province. In addition, she created a very successful self-financing Pay Roll scheme, which is much appreciated by users of Direct Payments and the new Self Directed Support scheme.
I doubt very much that there would have been a CILNI today without the enthusiasm and commitment of Philomena. Because of her, many disabled people lives have been much improved. We wish her a healthy and fulfilling retirement.
We very much share Angela’s hope that Philomena will continue to be involved in some way with CILNI as she enters this new chapter in her life.
All at CILNI wish her good health and happiness in what we trust will be a long and fulfilling retirement.
Since Philomena’s retirement, our Assistant Chief Executive, Bryan Myles, has been appointed Acting Chief Executive. Having worked closely with Philomena since early 2016 with the successful contract tender, the migration of the payroll service and implementing our strategic plan, he is well placed to help CILNI meet the existing and new challenges.
Note: Prior to joining CILNI, Bryan has worked with the Bridge Community Enterprise, Community Transport Association UK in Northern Ireland and the East Belfast Mission.