Jacqueline Magee: 'Her drive to make life better for others was unquestionable'
JACQUELINE Magee was known by everyone in the health and social care family as a campaigner for service users.
She worked tirelessly for those with brain injuries, wheelchair users, those with physical, sensory and learning disabilities and carers.
The challenge always for Jacqueline was to persuade others that her idea was a good idea. No-one was beyond her reach when she decided that something needed to change.
She would say: “It’s my job to listen to and engage with service users – but it’s also your job.”
From Newry, Co Down, Jacqueline had 19 years’ service in health and social care.
She worked initially as a disability awareness trainer for the former Southern Health and Social Care Board, where her formidable drive and zest for change resulted in the training of more than 8,000 staff in the early 2000s.
Jacqueline was then appointed a service user involvement officer, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, until she transferred in 2009 to the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) as personal and public involvement lead.
Long before any legislative requirements or the plethora of new language about engagement, co-production or peer research, Jacqueline’s question always reverberated around the room: “Where is the voice of service users or carers in this process or how will they be affected or involved?”
She was engaged in the first service user involvement policy in health and social care, and in recent years was instrumental in getting the disability placement scheme off the ground.
It was only a matter of time before Jacqueline would have driven health and social care organisations even further in the adoption of a full employment scheme for people with disabilities.
Marie Roulston, the HSCB’s director of social care and children’s services, described her as "warm, compassionate, caring, a completely upfront lady and a highly regarded colleague to everyone at the board".
“Everyone loved working with Jacqueline. Her humour, her determination, her kindness, her drive to make life better for others was unquestionable," she said.
“Jacqueline was an ambassador for all service users; she was an absolute character, and will be very sorely missed by everyone across the HSC system."
Inside work or outside Jacqueline's enthusiasm to make a difference was evident, be it with groups such as Vela Micro Boards, individuals or a wide range of charitable organisations including St Vincent de Paul, about which she was passionate. However, this work was often done quietly, with no acknowledgement required.
That said Jacqueline also enjoyed being in the limelight and always looked amazing and relaxed in photographs, her smile, energy and enthusiasm filling the page.
Health and social care in Northern Ireland has lost a champion but everyone has lost a driver for change, who placed the voice and rights of the people first, especially those with disability.
Jacqueline Magee died aged 52 on January 20 and is survived by her mother Teresa, brother Anthony, sister-in-law Sandra, nieces Jorja and Honor, nephew Jake and family circle.
Her month's mind Mass will be held at 10am on Sunday February 24 in St Mary's Church, Burren. All are welcome.