Maureen Collins: ‘My 50 years caring for Islington’s elderly’

Maureen Collins, who is retiring from the New Park Day Centre after 50 years. Picture: Polly Hancock

Maureen Collins, who is retiring from the New Park Day Centre after 50 years. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Highbury carer Maureen Collins has dedicated 50 years – her entire working life – to Islington’s elderly. Ahead of her retirement this week, she chats to the Gazette.

Like so many other school leavers, Maureen Collins had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. But it just so happened her first job became her only job.

For 50 years, born and bred Islington girl Maureen has looked after elderly people with disabilities.

She is retiring on Friday at the age of 68.

Maureen is team leader at the New Park Day Centre in Highbury New Park (not to be confused with Highbury New Park Day Care Centre, further up the road).

She has had this role since 1973, having joined Islington Council’s welfare department in 1967. The 68-year-old joked: “I met my husband through this job [in 1968], so it’s got a lot to answer for!”

Upon leaving Barnsbury Girls’ School, Maureen had been told to take a different path: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My careers advisor suggested joining the police, but that wasn’t for me.

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“I joined the council’s welfare department, for people with physical disabilities. I actually had no experience of looking after people with disabilities, apart from my elderly grandmother. It was very much learning on the job.

“I obviously liked it as I am still here at New Park Day Centre – just about.”

Maureen grew up in Archway and Caledonian Road, and now lives in Leytonstone, east London. But she is still Islington at heart, and proud of her career in public service: “Despite all the cutbacks forced on it, I still think Islington is one of the best boroughs for social care.

“It sounds naff, but I just loved meeting all the different people and characters. And supporting people, helping them to live active and independent lives.

“Things have changed so much, particularly with health and safety. We would take a massive group of 200 people to Devon on holiday – something you wouldn’t dream of doing today.

“I’ve been getting up in the morning to help others for the last 50 years, so I will miss the routine.”

She has no big plans for retirement yet, though she will be volunteering: “I already help my grandchildren in the local schools, so I will be going from 90-year-olds to five-year-olds.

“Helping people is part of who I am.”