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Chair’s Welcome

Maggie O' Neill


Message from SIL's Chairperson, Maggie O’Neill

As SIL’s Chairperson I have the great honour of welcoming you to our website. I have been a trustee of SIL since 1997 and I have been the Chair of the organisation since October 2016, a very auspicious year for SIL as in this year we celebrated our twentieth anniversary of supporting people to live independent lives.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself and why I do what I can to support and promote SIL, an organisation to which I am passionately committed.

I contracted polio when I was 5 years old and I was initially paralysed from the neck down. After almost a year in hospital I finally left able to walk with the aid of a caliper and crutches. Thanks to my wonderful family I was able to lead a surprisingly normal life, attending mainstream schools, college and working my way up to become a Director and PA to a fledgling company in the 1980’s.

I married and had a family but shortly after moving to Herefordshire I found myself a single parent, with a deteriorating disability. I was beginning to need support in the home, when in 1997 I learned there was to be a pilot scheme for Direct Payments in Herefordshire. I contacted the Herefordshire Centre of Independent Living, now known as Services for Independent Living, and became the third person to be placed on the Pilot Scheme. By January 1998 I was interviewing and employing my own personal assistants.

Shorty after I became a Director and Trustee of HCIL, now SIL of course, and it has been one of the best, and most meaningful, decisions I have ever made. SIL was at the forefront of enabling people’s independence through direct payments and since then it has continued to lead rather than follow, introducing its Independent Living at Home service in 2003; its Financial Administration Service in 2007; starting Support Planning in 2010; and more recently opening an office in Torfaen, Wales as the commissioned Direct Payment Support Service for the county; working in partnership with the NHS to support people with their Personal Health Budgets; and being awarded the contract to deliver the Wellbeing Information and Signposting Service in Herefordshire (WISH).

SIL was founded by a handful of disabled people in 1996 and it continues to be led by disabled people today, with the majority of the Board of Trustees either being a service user or a family carer, and it is this user-led approach that drives the organisation and influences the decisions that are made.

SIL’s dedicated staff and trustees are committed to finding the best way to support our service users and we strive to overcome the challenges which face all organisations currently working within social care.

I hope that you find the information within these pages informative, but naturally should you have any questions about our services, or would like to talk to someone about how SIL may be able to support you or a loved one, then please do not hesitate to contact us.