New job for Cornerstone chief executive

Edel harris - cornerstone (small)

Edel Harris is leaving the Scottish social care charity after 11 years to take over as the new boss of Mencap 

22nd October 2019 by Gareth Jones 1 Comment

A Scottish social care charity has announced its chief executive is heading for pastures new.

Edel Harris has been appointed as the new CEO of the Royal Mencap Society.

She will leave Cornerstone after 11 years at the helm, taking up her new role in London at the start of the new year.

“I am delighted to have been appointed as the new chief executive at Mencap,” said Harris. “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.

“Mencap is a very well-known and respected charity and I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Harris joined Cornerstone, one of Scotland's largest social care charities, as chief executive in May 2008 having previously worked as deputy chief executive of Aberdeen Foyer.

A former Metropolitan Police Officer, Harris spent eight years working for NHS Grampian and has significant experience in setting up and leading successful social enterprises and in developing new social care services. 

On International Women’s Day 2018, Harris was awarded an honorary doctorate from Robert Gordon University for her contribution to charity and business in Scotland, and she has served as chair of the Life Changes Trust and a director of Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI).

In recent years, she played a key role in the development of the organisation’s Local Cornerstone strategic plan, which was designed to embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by the changing social care sector. However implementation of the plan has been criticised by Unison, which has been disputing how staff are affected by the strategy.

There was controversy after the trade union was de-recognised amid industrial strife, and the situation is still unresolved.

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.”

Derek Lewis, chair of the 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. 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 chief executive 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.”

23rd October 2019 by Toni Lanzini

Well done Edel, you’ve been a leading light in Scottish social care and pioneered a new way of working that’s benefitted service users and us on the frontline. You’ll be missed - but Mencap have won a watch as they say!