Excellence Awards: Luke FitzHerbert Award, Lifetime Achievement - Winner: Sir Bert Massie

Sir Bert Massie

Lifetime achievement winner Sir Bert Massie
Lifetime achievement winner Sir Bert Massie

One of the most effective campaigners in the voluntary sector and a man of honesty, good humour and political skill: these are some of the observations about Sir Bert Massie from those who have worked with him.

During a 40-year career, Massie has led a number of charitable organisations and is best known as a disability rights campaigner. It's a cause close to his heart for he has a disability that was caused by contracting polio when he was three months old.

In 2008, Massie was appointed the Commissioner for the Compact, which governs relations between the public and voluntary sectors. "Most people who know Bert know he lives as if every day was his last," says Richard Corden, the chief executive of the Commission for the Compact.

"He has been instrumental in virtually every piece of legislation that has given rights to disabled people. He is viewed as a man who gets on well with everyone regardless of their status, a man of humour who is into straight talking and honesty."

He started his work at the Liverpool Association of the Disabled. Then, after completing a degree and a social work training course, he went to work at the newly formed Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, where he became chief executive in 1990.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, has worked with Massie in different guises for 30 years. "Bert has been one of the most effective campaigners in the voluntary sector," he says.

"He very much personifies what the sector is about in terms of influencing public sector policy. He sees through ambivalence and cuts to the chase."

Etherington believes Massie's biggest achievement was his campaign work on the Disabled Persons Bill, which led to the creation of the Disability Rights Commission. He chaired the commission from its inception in 2000 until 2007, when it was merged with other bodies to become the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

His work in this area has been recognised by the Queen: he received a CBE for services to disabled people in 1984 and a knighthood in 2007.

He has also made an impression in political circles. Alun Michael MP, the former voluntary sector minister, praises Massie's determination, good humour and constructive approach: "He has played a very significant role in the disability section of the voluntary sector, but has been much more significant in many ways as a mainstream player and as an example to others."

When Massie was appointed to revive the Compact, Phil Hope, one of Michael's successors as sector minister, said he "had the passion, knowledge and experience" for the task. Corden adds: "The government made it clear they wanted him to act in an independent-minded way - and he has done so."

Massie has served on a number of advisory committees, including the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, and he was also deputy chair of the National Disability Council. He is currently governor of Motability, the car scheme for disabled people, and a trustee of Habinteg Housing Association.

The perception of Massie as a straight talker should come as no surprise to the disability rights veteran himself. In an interview with Third Sector in 2008, he said he was not a man who could be cowed or bullied. "I'm a political fighter and have spent my life fighting for the rights of disabled people. I can think of many times when ministers have told me something is impossible, then I've smiled when they've eventually signed the law."

 

Criteria

Awarded to an individual who has shown sustained commitment both to individual voluntary organisations and to the sector in general during their career

Judging panel

David Ainsworth, reporter, Third Sector
Stephen Cook, editor, Third Sector
Tristan Donovan, deputy editor, Third Sector
John Plummer, reporter, Third Sector
Andy Ricketts, news editor, Third Sector
Kaye Wiggins, reporter, Third Sector

 

LUKE FITZHERBERT, 1937-2007

Luke Fitzherbert The Lifetime Achievement award is named after Luke FitzHerbert, who in 2005 became the first person to receive the accolade.

Luke, who died in a road accident in January 2007, began his remarkable career in the third sector in 1970 when, after spells working in industrial marketing and teaching, he founded the Brent River and Canal Society.

His voluntary environmental group campaigned successfully for the creation of parkland in west London. It prompted his move into a full-time post in the voluntary sector, leading the first payroll giving project at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

From there, he moved to the Directory of Social Change, where he developed the organisation's guides to grant-making trusts and helped to provide training for thousands of voluntary sector employees on issues ranging from fundraising to public benefit.

During his time at the DSC, Luke also led a campaign to persuade trusts to become more transparent about their grant-giving.

He was an independent and sometimes controversial figure in the sector, a man whose work was always underpinned by his grass-roots voluntary sector ideals.

Awarded by THIRD SECTOR.

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