Home Learning Disabilities & Autism Dame Carolyn Fairbairn announced as Mencap’s new Chair

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn announced as Mencap’s new Chair

by Lisa Carr

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn DBE has been appointed as the new Chair of Trustees at Royal Mencap Society. Fairbairn will take over from Derek Lewis, who completes his eight-year term as Chair in the summer. She joins at a time when Mencap has embarked on a new transformative strategy with an ambitious vision for the UK to be the best place for people with a learning disability to lead happy and healthy lives.    

From 2015 to 2020, Dame Carolyn was Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s largest business organisation, where she represented business on issues ranging from the UK’s trading relationship with the EU and sustainability, to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  

She has also been a Trustee of Marie Curie Cancer; a member of the Executive Board at ITV; BBC Director of Strategy where she led the BBC’s digital strategy; and before that was at McKinsey, where she was a partner and leader of its UK media practice. She has also worked in the Number 10 Policy unit, where she oversaw health and social services policy, and is currently a Non-Executive Director of HSBC.  

Dame Carolyn spent her early career with the World Bank and as a journalist with The Economist magazine.   

Speaking of her appointment, Dame Carolyn said: “It is a great honour to be joining Mencap at this vital time. Mencap’s inspirational ambition to ensure that the UK is the best place in the world for people with a learning disability has never felt more relevant, or its values of compassionate care and respect more needed. I look forward to working with Edel, her team and my fellow trustees to help raise the voices of people with a learning disability in all our communities and make Mencap’s exciting new strategy a reality over the coming years.” 

Derek Lewis, Chair of Mencap, said: “Royal Mencap and its network of partners play a vital role in supporting people with a learning disability to lead the lives they want and in pursuing an end to discrimination. It has been a great privilege to chair the board and to work with the executive team in developing Mencap’s exciting new strategy for the coming years. I am delighted to be handing over to someone with as distinguished a track record as Dame Carolyn. The breadth and depth of her experience will be invaluable to Mencap in turning its ambitions into reality.” 

Edel Harris, Chief Executive of Mencap, said: “I am delighted to welcome Dame Carolyn to Mencap.  She will bring significant personal and professional insight and leadership to the role of Chair. I also want to recognise the unstinting energy, support and knowledge that has marked Derek’s tenure as Chair.  He has made a huge contribution to the lives of people with a learning disability over the eight years he has led the Board. We are all very grateful to him.”  

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