Su Sayer United ResponseSu Sayer CBE, founder and chief executive of learning disability charity United Response, has announced that she is stepping down from her role after 40 years at the helm.

After training as a scientist, and beginning her charitable work in Brazil, Sayer founded United Response in 1973, in response to the way that people with learning disabilities were often confined to inhumane long-term institutions. United Response’s first service was a single house for 12 adults with learning disabilities, in the heart of the community. The charity now operates in some 300 locations and employs almost 3,500 staff, but retains its original values and person-centred focus.

Su’s decision to stand down follows a successful 40th anniversary year, which saw the charity launch Easy News, the first easy read news magazine for people with learning disabilities. It also created Postcards from the Edges, a website and campaign that saw disabled people express themselves through postcards, which culminated in a series of exhibitions that the Daily Mirror said was “fascinating and moving.”

Further reading: First newspaper designed for people with learning disabilities launched

“It has been my absolute privilege to lead this organisation for the last 40 years,” Sayer told her staff on announcing her intention to step down.

“I have tried hard to ensure that the values and the principles to which we all adhere are those that will lead to greater independence and fulfilled lives for everyone we support. At the same time, I have also strived to make sure that all of us who work for United Response feel that our skills and hard work are valued and nurtured.”

United Response’s board has asked Sayer to stay on in a part-time role as founder director, to ensure the charity can continue to benefit from her experience.

“Su has ensured that United Response has been at the forefront of national campaigning and the development of innovative and high quality services,” said Maurice Rumbold, United Response’s chair.

“She has worked tirelessly to make the lives of those we support more meaningful and satisfying and to enable people to achieve things that previously wouldn’t have been thought possible. Su’s commitment has truly been second to none.”