Our Trustees

Alan Kendal (President)

Alan began working in childcare in 1966 and was Director of Development with Barnardos when he retired in 1994. He was a founder member of Positive Futures and was Chair of our Board of Trustees from 1995 – 2005 before becoming President.

Miriam Somerville (Honorary Vice President)

Miriam has worked in statutory sector learning disability services for many years. Trained as a speech and language therapist, she gained a Masters degree in the Management of Learning Disability Services at the University of Kent in 1990, going on to become Director of Learning Disability Services in Birmingham, a post that straddled the Primary Care Trust and Birmingham City Council

She returned to Northern Ireland as Director of Learning Disability Services with the North and West Belfast Trust, leading the development of community learning disability services in Belfast and at Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Miriam has a particular interest in the needs of people with complex, challenging behaviours and of people with communication difficulties. She has retired from her post in the Belfast Trust and is now working as a cognitive behavioural therapist. Miriam has been a Trustee since June 2011 and became Chair of the Board of Trustees in September 2015.

Mary Bryce (Trustee)

Mary is a Human Resources professional with over 23 years’ experience in HR management and leadership working in private sector businesses at local, regional and national levels.

She started her HR career after graduating from Queen’s University with an MBA. She joined Bombardier in 1991 and then was appointed as the HR Manager of a joint venture company, Shorts Missile Systems, in 1994. This company became wholly owned by the Thales Group in 2000. Mary has worked for Thales as a HR Director for 4 businesses in the UK and since 2010, at the corporate office in Surrey as the Director of Employee Development and Employee Relations. Three years ago, she decided to leave the commuter lifestyle and return to work in Northern Ireland. She is now a freelance HR consultant.

Mary is passionate about developing people to reach their potential and has worked as a lecturer in Further Education. She was also a volunteer for a local charitable organisation which supported the integration of able bodied children and children with a disability. She now has the time to contribute to a similar organisation and feels that our Mission and Values provides that opportunity. She has recently become more aware of the tremendous impact our staff and volunteers have on the lives of the people we support and feels privileged to have this opportunity to work with our staff team.

Mairead Mitchell (Trustee)

Mairead has over 40 years working within statutory healthcare, beginning her career as a General Nurse and then progressing as a Midwife and a Health Visitor.

During the course of her career, Mairead was Head of Governance in North and West Belfast Trust and in the last 15 years has been involved with Learning Disability services.

During the course of her career, Mairead was Head of Governance in North and West Belfast Trust and in the last 15 years has been involved with Learning Disability services.

Mairead has recently retired from her post as Co–Director of Learning Disability services in Belfast Trust, where she had a track record of partnership working with the voluntary sector built over many years.

She has a special interest in Governance and Quality Improvement and completed the Scottish improvement Leader programme in 2018 and is a professional member of the Institute for Continuous improvement in Public Services (ICiPS).

Austin Treacey (Trustee)

Austin retired as Director of Prisons in the Northern Ireland Prison Service. He joined NIPS as an Officer in 1977, and has served in all establishments in Northern Ireland. He has held the posts of Deputy Governor of Magaberry and Governor of Hydebank Wood and Magilligan Prisons. In 2015 he transitioned Hydebank Wood from a Young Offenders Institution to become the UK first Secure College. He was awarded the UK Civil Service Award for Inspirational Leadership in 2016 and received an OBE for Community Safety in 2017.

Austin was appointed Director of Prisons in 2017.

On retirement Austin joined The Lava Group, a Belfast Security Technology Company, is the Independent assessor of Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre, and is assisting the Irish Prison Service facilitating Coaching for Senior Operational Managers. Austin is a Trustee of Positive Futures, Newforge Community Development Association and is a member of Common Purpose NI Advisory Board.

Peter Woodhead (Trustee)

Peter is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He has a breadth of experience across local authorities, the charitable sector and the private sector, currently working as a valuation surveyor. He enjoys finding the right property for the right purpose. Peter has family experience of benefiting from the services of Positive Futures. He has experience as a school governor and has a particular interest in supporting young people.

Helen Mark (Honorary Vice President)

Helen is a well–known TV and radio broadcaster with the BBC, UTV and RTE. She has also worked in Youth Training, as a drama teacher and in arts administration. Her broadcasting background includes news and current affairs, documentary work, quiz programmes, gardening, rural affairs and natural history

After receiving an invitation to become a Positive Futures Trustee, Helen visited some of our Services, saw how we make a difference to people’s lives and was a Trustee from 1999 until 2015. In 2015, Helen assumed the position of Honorary Vice President.

John Alexander (Chair)

John is a professionally qualified social worker who moved from Scotland to Northern Ireland in 2013. After graduating from the University of Glasgow with the degree of Master of Arts with Honours in 1977, John started a 36 year professional career in social work practice and management in Scotland.

He completed his professional training in social work at the University of Oxford, graduating with the degree of Master of Science in Applied Social Studies in 1981. In addition to his professional qualification in social work, John completed executive management training at the University of Strathclyde, graduating with the degree of Master of Business Administration in 1993. During the course of his professional career in social work, John worked for a number of local authorities in Scotland, culminating with the post of Director of Social Work and statutory Chief Social Work Officer with Dumfries and Galloway Council from 2007 until his retirement from public service in 2013. After moving to Northern Ireland, John worked as an independent social worker and adviser to public bodies and not for profit organisations. He also served on the committee of the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers from 2015 until 2017, when he retired from social work practice. His professional interests and expertise relate to supports and services for disabled adults, accounting for more than half of his social work career. Between 1997 and 2016, John served as a trustee of a Scottish voluntary organisation which supports men and women with a learning disability to live independently with support in the community.

Stephen Cross (Trustee)

Stephen is a practising solicitor, having qualified in London in 1993.  He is a Director at Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors in Belfast, joining the firm in 1996.  Stephen has many years of experience in the fields of corporate and finance law and has worked with many charities on governance, funding, mergers and acquisitions.

Laurence Taggart (Trustee)

Laurence commenced his nursing career in 1987 where he completed his Registered Nurse Learning Disability education. He has worked in several homes for adults with learning disabilities across Northern Ireland. In 1999, Laurence obtained a degree in Applied Psychology at Ulster University and went on to successfully complete a PhD in 2003 that examined the mental health needs of adults with learning disabilities. He took up the post of Lecturer in 2002 and in 2013 was promoted to Reader in the School of Nursing at Ulster University.

Laurence currently works as a Professor of Intellectual Disability Research at Ulster University and his research interests include the physical and mental health needs of people with learning disabilities, and the needs of their family carers. He has successfully secured over £10.5 million in external research grants from a wide range of funding bodies including research councils (NIHR, MRC, ESRC, RDO) and charities (Bailey Thomas, Breast Cancer UK, Diabetes UK, Dunhill Medical Trust). He has published over 150 high impact international quality research publications. Laurence is currently the Co–Editor–in–Chief of the Journal of Policy & Practice in Intellectual Disabilities.

Laurence was an Expert Member of the NICE Guidelines on the Care of Older Adults with Learning Disabilities (2015–18). Currently, Laurence is the Liaison Link Officer to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for IASSIDD.

Carol Workman (Trustee)

Carol grew up on a farm near Ballymoney, in County Antrim. A lifelong love of buildings, the environment and design led her to study Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast. She graduated in 2013 with a BSc in Architecture.

Carol is a volunteer with Pets as Therapy and local Northern Ireland charity, Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary where she assists with grant support and public events.

Carol was diagnosed with Autism in March 2016 and has since felt a strong desire to promote, aid and improve the understanding of the autism spectrum in Northern Ireland.

She is a firm believer in animal therapies and has said “the animals saved my life”.

She has strong views and difficulties with social situations and norms. She has a deep desire to know everything and has been known to become fanatic about topics. Her family say her most used phrase is “just one question”.

She wants to change the world, she just needs a little direction!

Dr. Amanda Slevin (Trustee)

Dr Amanda Slevin  is an environmental social scientist, educator, and community activist. She works in Queen’s University Belfast where she is Director of the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action and a Research Fellow with the GroundsWell Consortium, School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics.

With over 25 years’ professional experience in community development, youth work, adult and community education, Amanda has primarily worked in higher education since 2009 and deliberately combines her practical experience, skills and knowledge with her research to advance multi-level action for transitions towards a healthier, fairer and more sustainable future. Her track record of academic-societal impact encompasses over 200 outputs, including invited high-level contributions to climate and energy policy (UK, Irish and NI Governments). In tandem with publications like her book ‘Gas, Oil and the Irish State’ (MUP, 2016), Amanda often organises, co-organises and participates in community engagement events, writes accessible articles, engages in public debate via media interviews, and collaborates with myriad partners. A co-founder of the multi-stakeholder Belfast Climate Commission, Amanda was the first Chairperson of Climate Coalition Northern Ireland (2020-22) and played a leadership role in NI’s largest movement for climate action, working closely with cross-party, cross-community MLAs, legal experts, and civil society groups around the development and introduction of NI’s first Climate Change Act (2022).

Reflecting her enduring interest in nature and community, Amanda is a member of Letterkenny Community Gardens and professional bodies such as the All-Island Climate and Biodiversity Research Network and the Project Advisory Group of Feminist Communities for Climate Justice (National Women’s Council of Ireland and Community Work Ireland). Her qualifications include a PhD in Sociology (UCD), MA in Adult and Community Education (Maynooth University), HDip in Adult and Community Education (Maynooth), BA Hons in Community Development (LYIT).