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It’s a fond farewell to caring Maureen

Care worker who treated elderly as individuals retires, warning of government cuts to service

25 August, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Maureen Collins with grandchildren, seven-year-old Lara and Marwood, one

APPLAUSE and “hip hip hooray” rang out at a party to celebrate the career of a much-loved care worker who has devoted much of her life to the borough’s elderly and disabled residents on Friday.

Dozens of elderly people joined staff, friends and family at the New Park Day Centre in Canonbury to mark the end of Maureen Collins’ 50-year career with the Town Hall.

The 68-year-old worked at the council-run centre for 44 years after working for six years as a home care visitor where she learnt her trade assisting on weekend trips for the disabled to Devon.

“I’m quite choked today. Some of these people I’ve known for more than 40 years,” said Ms Collins.

The care worker, who grew up in Archway, was told by her school careers advisor at Barnsbury School for Girls to become a policewoman when they heard she was motivated to do good.

“The police force didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I saw this advert and I was inspired by that, I was hooked. It’s a cliché to say but I love being around people, helping and supporting people,” said Ms Collins.

Maureen with centre users Leonard Andrews and Pat Liddiard

One of the driving forces in her work is treating elderly and disabled people as individuals deserving of respect and dignity.

“I want to encourage people to be independent and lead as active a life as possible. You meet so many different characters here. They’ve had lives, they’ve lived through the war, they’ve had affairs all this sort of stuff. Some people see old ladies and men sitting around and say, ‘aw bless,’ but they’ve had lives, spicy lives some of them.”

As a team leader at the centre, Ms Collins trained thousands of carers and was awarded a British Empire Medal three years ago for services to health and social care.

Lloyd Coombes, 62, who manages the centre in Highbury New Park along with the Alsen Day Centre in Finsbury Park, said: “She puts people first and people just love coming to the centre and being around her. She gives people a choice and fights for their rights.”

“She’s an inspiration, she’s someone I’ve learnt to love. She’s a fantastic person to work with, very practical. She’ll leave a big void in my life, I will have known her for 40 years in December,” he added.

Ms Collins warned that cuts from central government and overly strict health and safety rules were negatively impacting the borough’s most vulnerable residents.

“I still maintain Islington is one of the better boroughs because it still has a few day centres. To see all these homes and centres cut, it’s obviously hard, we’ve got an ageing population. We used to have 12 homes that belonged to the council,” she said.

“You can’t take 200 people on holiday anymore. I understand why you need health and safety but it’s gone to the extreme,” she added.

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