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MBE for Carrickfergus Mencap chair and tireless campaigner on behalf of carers

A Whitehead campaigner for improved support for carers says he is “privileged’ to have been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Sam Bell receives the MBE for service to people with disabilities and their carers in Northern Ireland.

Sam has been chair for approximately 25 years of Carrickfergus Mencap, which supports Senior and Junior Gateway Clubs, Hawthorns Day Centre, and supported living and respite units.

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He has also served on the Mencap NI board for around 10 years.

Sam Bell.

Commenting on the royal recognition, Sam said: “On receipt of the letter of confirmation I felt very surprised, privileged and honoured.”

He also took the opportunity to outline the challenges faced by people in caring roles.

“As a carer for my adult disabled daughter I am very aware of the challenges facing unpaid family carers. About 20 years ago I joined the Carers NI committee to help raise awareness of the difficulties and to try to improve the lives of carers. This has been challenging due to Covid and because there is still much to be done.

“This is Carers Week. I would urge anyone who knows a carer to give them a break even for an hour.”

Sam also liaises with the Carers Group and co-ordinator in the Northern Health Trust and in 2018 he was appointed to the Independent Expert Carers Panel to help contribute to the current consultation on the Reform of Adult Social Care.

He continued: “I push my daughter in her wheelchair and am acutely aware that accessibility is a major issue for wheelchair users and others with disabilities. I watched someone trying to get onto a footpath tip out of their wheelchair.

“When I see an accessibility issue or respond to consultations it is supplemented with photographs to highlight improvements required for disabled people.

“Volunteering with IMTAC (Inclusive Mobility & Transport Advisory Committee) for over eight years has been extremely beneficial. We have conducted walking audits at airports and transport hubs and studied public realm schemes making suggestions to improve accessibility for disabled people.”

A 74-year-old retired engineer, Sam has been a member since 1998 of Carrickfergus Rotary, which supports and helps many charities.

Sam, who lives with his wife and daughter in Whitehead, is a member of Carrickfergus Camera Club and a keen photographer - a hobby which should prove useful when the honour is bestowed in London.

He added: “I am very much looking forward to a trip to the palace especially in this very special year.”

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