Edel Harris will be the next Chief Executive Officer of Royal Mencap Society. She is currently CEO of Cornerstone, one of Scotland’s leading charities, which provides a range of services to people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, autism, and dementia.
Edel joined Cornerstone, one of Scotland's leading charities, as Chief Executive in May 2008 having previously been Deputy Chief Executive of Aberdeen Foyer. A former Metropolitan Police Officer, Edel's background is in health promotion.
"As someone who is passionate about ensuring that people with a learning disability are included, listened to and valued, this role provides me with an opportunity to continue all the good work I’ve done at Cornerstone but on a bigger stage".
She spent 8 years working for NHS Grampian and has significant experience in setting up and leading successful social enterprises and in developing new social care services.
Cornerstone under Edel's leadership
In this role, Edel has pioneered new ways of providing care particularly through leading the introduction of Local Cornerstone, tackling the challenges faced by the social care system whilst ensuring that people with a learning disability are empowered to live the life they choose.
Developing new social care services and learning from best practice is inherent in all strands of Cornerstone’s work. The model is built around self-managing teams, allowing staff to provide tailored and individualised packages of care and support which focus on enabling people to live a valued life.
Under Edel’s leadership, Cornerstone has also invested in capital projects including custom-built housing and care for adults with autism, learning disabilities and complex needs.
During her time at Cornerstone she has introduced social enterprises including Woodview Embroidery and Print Services, based in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. Run in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council and the Trading Corner retail outlet, Woodview offers training and employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities, producing quality embroidery and printed products such as mugs, gifts, and schoolwear.
Edel was previously deputy chief executive of Aberdeen Foyer, a successful social enterprise working to support individuals in communities in the North-east of Scotland. She was involved in initiatives which included Foyer Drive, offering a range of driving tuition packages, and a partnership with Ben & Jerry’s. As well as selling ice cream, waffles, brownies and coffee in a shopping centre, the scheme offered supported training and employment opportunities to unemployed young people aged between 16 and 25.
She also set up community health services which included a mental health project, smoking cessation, drug rehabilitation, and healthy eating programmes.
Edel was until very recently a Director of the Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust and a Director of Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI). She currently sits on the Board of the Robertson Trust and she served as the first female President of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce. She was also one of the first Directors of Opportunity North East (ONE), former Chair of The Life Changes Trust and former Chair of the Scottish Government's Social Investment Fund.
Amongst Edel’s many achievements she was awarded the 2015 IOD North East Director of the Year accolade and in 2017 became the Scottish EY Entrepreneur of the Year. On International Women’s Day 2018 Edel was awarded an honorary doctorate from Robert Gordon University for her contribution to charity and business in Scotland and in October 2019 was awarded a Fellowship from North East College in Aberdeen
Commenting on her appointment, Edel said:
“I am delighted to have been appointed as the new CEO at Mencap. As someone who is passionate about ensuring that people with a learning disability are included, listened to and valued, this role provides me with an opportunity to continue all the good work I’ve done at Cornerstone but on a bigger stage.
“I am very sorry to leave all my great friends and colleagues at Cornerstone. Over the last eleven years I have worked with some amazing, committed people who have shown courage and passion despite what, at times, has been a challenging time for the social care sector in Scotland. I have been supported by a wonderful voluntary board of directors and I am really proud of all that we have achieved since 2008.
“Mencap is a very well-known and respected charity and I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Derek Lewis, Chair of Royal Mencap Society, said:
“The trustees are delighted that Edel has accepted the role of chief executive of Royal Mencap Society. The challenges facing people with learning disabilities, as well as their families, carers and the organisations that provide support, remain severe.
"Working with all of these groups, Mencap is committed to enabling people with learning disabilities to lead good lives, able to make their own choices and free from discrimination.
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"As we embark on the next phase of our ambitious development strategy, we look forward to Edel’s leadership and commitment to people with learning disabilities.
"Her experience and insights will be invaluable, especially those from her eleven years as CEO of Cornerstone where she has pioneered transformational changes in the way people with learning disabilities are supported. We look forward to welcoming her and working with her.”
Andrew Lockhart, Chair of Cornerstone, said:
“I would wish to record our warm thanks and congratulations to Edel. While we will of course be very sorry to see her leave the organisation, this appointment is worthy recognition both of her outstanding contribution to Cornerstone over the past eleven years, and of her high profile within the sector generally in Scotland".
There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. www.mencap.org.uk