Former Ability Northants founder gifts sale of £500,000 house to fund disability groups

Almost £1 million has been raised to help pay for disability groups in Northamptonshire as part of the Cecil Pettit Legacy Fund.

Tuesday, 4th December 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 8:22 am
As well as being one of the founding members of Ability Northants, wheelchair user Cecil Pettit worked tirelessly for the equality for people with disabilities throughout his life.

When Mr Pettit died 18 years ago his house was put into trust with solicitors to help people with disabilities in the county.

After his property was sold for £570,000, the property was 50 per cent match funded by the Northamptonshire Community Foundation’s partner Constance Travis Charitable Trust, it was announced yesterday (Monday).

The existing Cecil Pettit Legacy Fund - now with nearly £1 million in funds - will be available to apply for again from the start of the next financial year to organisations that support disabled people.

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Thanks to the work of Cecil Pettit, Ability Northants and Howes Percival Solicitors, just under 1 million will be available countywide to support those in need.

Victoria Miles CEO of Northamptonshire Community Foundation said: “We are so delighted that Mr Pettit’s generous legacy for people with disabilities will live on here in our county.

"Those who knew him well spoke highly of his commitment and passion in raising awareness for equality for people with disabilities.

"This will now continue in perpetuity in the form of a substantial named fund that the Community Foundation is so honoured to deliver on his behalf.”

The fund has previously helped to pay for Northampton Town Multi-Disabled Football Club to establish a wheelchair football team, the Core at Corby Cube to help a deaf person participate in theatre performances and Shacks Barn and Buckingham Riding for the disabled to set up a vaulting team.

Ability Northants was founded under the name Northampton & District Council for the disabled in 1978.

At a time where no disability legislation existed and equality was almost unheard of the group was dedicated to enriching the lives of people living with disabilities.

Former Mayor of Northampton, councillor Mark Aldridge, founded the organisation and became its first chair, alongside Cecil Pettit as vice chair.

The organisation continuously championed for disability rights, changing its name for a final time to Ability Northants in 2002, with all members of staff and trustees either being carers or people with disabilities themselves.

Mr Pettit was recognised with an MBE in 1982 for his outstanding contributions - his primary concern being to ensure disabled people have access to a normal education and an ordinary life, a passion that remained with him until he passed away in August 2000 at the age of 79.

His vast contributions included his efforts to support the launch of the first Northampton Door to Door transport service for disabled people in 1997.

Sandra Bell, former director of Ability Northants, said: “It’s amazing that his legacy will live on through Northamptonshire Community Foundation in a time of absolute need for disabled people.

"It couldn’t come at a better time when local authorities are taking essential funding away from those in greatest need.”