Image of the audience attending a Graduation ceremony

Matthew Clarke

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Matthew Clarke for the award of an honorary fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University  

"A world where the people we support control their own lives" - This is the Vision of The Alternative Futures Group, founded by Liverpool-born Matthew Clarke in 1992.

Since then, encouragement and hope has been given to countless disadvantaged people and their families in Liverpool and the NW. 

Under Matthew's leadership, The Alternative Futures Group has provided much needed housing, training and development, care, health services and support for people with mental health problems and learning difficulties.  

Matthew was born in 1947 and brought up in Mossley Hill where he still lives, a few yards from where he was born. His concern for the disadvantaged was evident from an early age - he remembers writing a school composition about Dr Barnados when still at Dovedale Road Primary School. 

After attending Quarry Bank School, he trained as a teacher, but realised he was in the wrong profession when he was told that he seemed to be more interested in the welfare of the children than their education. He then trained as a social worker at Liverpool Polytechnic in the early 70s because he really wanted to make a difference to people's lives.  

After graduating, he first worked in childcare, mainly in North Liverpool and Knowsley, eventually specialising in child psychiatry. For 3 years he worked in the Forensic Psychiatry Unit at Rainhill Hospital, gaining an understanding of the value of encouragement and support when dealing with disturbed patients. 

Towards the end of the 1970s, he was appointed Principle Social Worker at Rainhill, and became involved with the major challenge of implementing the 'Care in the Community' Directive of 1983, which signalled a movement away from the isolation of the mentally ill in old Victorian asylums without dignity or hope towards their integration into the community.  

As Care in the Community Co-ordinator, he was instrumental in moving patients out of Rainhill Hospital and into the community, a radical project at the time, and a policy strenuously opposed not only by many professionals, but also by many members of the general public. He founded the charity Alternative Futures in 1992 with the support of Liverpool Health and Social Services departments, with a specific remit to provide services in community settings for people with complex needs.  

Matthew demonstrated that it was possible to provide a community based setting for those with complex learning disabilities and enduring mental health needs in the voluntary sector. He staffed Alternative Futures with people known and trusted by vulnerable people, and who could ensure that the patient needs were met. His guiding principles have been:  

  • The importance of proper risk management 
  • The need for supportive environments for vulnerable patients
  • The need for the psychiatrists, nurses, and clinical psychologists to work as a team  

Today the Alternative Futures Group also incorporates housing provider, Alternative Housing.   

It is widely seen as a national leader in the field and is a thriving company with 1500 employees across the North-West, 600 service users and an annual turnover approaching £40 million. In recent years, a successful partnership has developed between The Alternative Futures Group and our University. 

Through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme, and with the enthusiastic support of Matthew Clarke, Liverpool Business School has advised the company on strategic innovation in communication infrastructure, and business improvement through business-process re-engineering. Matthew feels that the partnership with our university has been transformational, commenting, "It has challenged our vision, broadened our thinking and deepened our business integration. We couldn't have developed so successfully without the support of the University."    

Matthew has recently retired from the company, confident in the knowledge that it will remain true to its mission and values. Perhaps now he will have the opportunity to spend more time supporting Everton FC, although his wife Christine may have other ideas. 

Matthew Clarke started out as a teacher, became a social worker and evolved into a successful businessman in the voluntary sector. 

The common thread throughout his working life has been the mission to improve people's lives, to make a difference particularly with those marginalised people with complex mental health problems and learning difficulties. 

Through exceptional leadership and vision, he is a successful pioneer in what has been a controversial area requiring him to take on vested interests and persuade the doubters through the quality of his arguments.

The result is that countless vulnerable people have benefited, leaving them and their families immensely grateful for his support.  

We are pleased to consolidate our association with Matthew Clarke with this honour today.  

Thus I have pleasure in presenting Matthew Clarke, this most distinguished alumnus and son of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.