Belfast Telegraph

Learning disability work earns Carrick man PM's award

Contribution: Thomas Haighton
Contribution: Thomas Haighton

By Chris Leebody

A Co Antrim man has received a prestigious award from the Prime Minister for his work to support those with learning disabilities.

Thomas Haighton (35), from Carrickfergus, has worked in health and social care supporting those with learning disabilities for 16 years.

Thomas set up Learning Disability Pride in 2017, holding the event in his home town, thanks to support from Mencap and other organisations, after recognising that most existing events focused mainly on those with a physical impairment.

He received the Points of Light award after being spotted by officials within Theresa May's office, rewarding his outstanding contribution to raising awareness and money for those with learning disabilities.

Speaking yesterday, he told the Belfast Telegraph: "At the time there were over 33,000 people with a learning disability. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be brilliant if we had a Learning Disability Pride Day'. I applied for funding from the Big Lottery and was successful.

"People with learning disabilities should be seen and valued as equal members of society. People with learning disabilities are able to do anything we can do," he added.

On being the 1208th recipient of the award, Thomas said he was "absolutely delighted", but stressed he was accepting it on behalf of the amazing team behind the event.

In a personal letter sent to Thomas, Mrs May said by establishing Learning Disability Pride Day, he was "bringing together our communities to celebrate the contribution of people with learning disabilities".

News of his award comes as Learning Disability Pride 2019 gets under way today in Carrickfergus, and Thomas insisted this year's event will "be even bigger and better" with workshops and a carnival-style parade with special guests.

The event gets under way with the parade at noon, and activities between 1pm and 5pm.

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