SEVENTY-three year-old Bill Learmonth from Ballieston in Glasgow has been named as Scotland’s Charity Champion at last night’s (14 June 2012) annual Scottish Charity Awards. Bill, who is a retired businessman, has devoted 43 years of his life to the charity ENABLE Scotland and to campaigning to improve the lives of people who have a learning disability.
It is particularly poignant that Bill has won this award as the annual Learning Disability Week is about to begin (18th June).
When Bill’s daughter Lesley was born in with Down’s Syndrome in 1968, he joined the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped (SSMH), which is now ENABLE Scotland, to gain support and information from other parents. This was the start of 43 years occupying a variety of high-profile voluntary positions, including chairman, within the charity.
Speaking about winning the award Bill said: “I am absolutely delighted to accept this award on behalf of all those who work with and care for people who have a learning disability. I am grateful to those who think I am worthy of receiving this award.”
Peter Scott, ENABLE Scotland’s CEO, said: “Bill is well regarded as a champion for people who have a learning disability and their families throughout Scotland. He is a forthright campaigner and has been a driving force behind the development of ENABLE Scotland.
“Over the years Bill has been a great support and friend to the countless families and individuals he has assisted. Bill has an incredibly warm personality and I know that of our 4,000 members, the majority will have met Bill or heard him speak at some point, being touched by his drive and vision to improve the lives of people who have a learning disability.
“I know that Bill will see this award as an acknowledgement of the thousands of unseen contributors and volunteers, who have given so much to ENABLE Scotland over the decades. I cannot thank Bill enough for the support he has given to the organisation and to me personally and I am delighted that Bill has won the Charity Champion Award.”
In the early days Bill was a key campaigner for the closure of long stay hospitals for people who had a learning disability. Access to education is another issue that Bill has campaigned on over the years. When Bill’s daughter was of school age the option given to families was ‘Occupational Centres’, which aimed to provide practical skills but no formal education. Bill fought hard for Lesley and other children to be given access to a formal education. Bill has also helped ENABLE Scotland campaign for improvements in health and raise awareness of the issues of bullying.
Bill has long recognised that people who have a learning disability need to have their own voice, which led him to help ENABLE Scotland set up various self advocacy groups.
Bill, who until 2000, ran a successful business, is married and has two daughters.
The winners of the Annual Scottish Charity Awards were announced on 14 June 2012 at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow.
• ENABLE Scotland is Scotland’s leading charity for children and adults who have a learning disability and their families and carers.
• ENABLE Scotland campaigns for people who have a learning disability to live full and independent lives.
• ENABLE Scotland is a member-led organisation formed in 1954 by a group of families.
• Local ENABLE branches are made up of volunteers – mostly people who have a learning disability, their families and carers.
• 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. The most well known learning disability is Down’s Syndrome, although there are many others.
• ENABLE Scotland provides services, information and advice to allow people who have a learning disability to live, work and take part in their communities – living the life they want.
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ENABLE Scotland, Charity No SC009024 and company limited by guarantee Reg No 278976 Scotland (full details of associated companies and branches can be supplied on request)