Meet the Committee: Isabel Clare

by Isabel Clare on 4 June 2015

I am currently the Secretary of the Lucy Cavendish College Alumnae Association Committee.

Since training in clinical and then forensic psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (King’s College London), I’ve worked in clinical services for  men and women  with learning (intellectual) disabilities (LD) and/or autism spectrum conditions and  additional mental health and/or behavioural difficulties. Concurrently I have been a researcher, focussing on people with LDs who have become suspects, offenders, or victims in the criminal justice system. I am now a member of the National Institute for Health Research’s Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) East of England, based in the Department of Psychiatry. The main part of my work involves leading a large mixed-methods longitudinal research project on the work of community services in supporting people with LD, particularly those with mental health and/or behavioural difficulties.    

My background is probably not dissimilar to that of many Lucy students. I married immediately after leaving school, later had a son, and held a series of jobs - often more than one at a time (egg packer, lab. technician, shop assistant, nursing assistant, life-drawing model, bar-worker, nanny, cleaner). I was also an active feminist, with a particular interest in services for women survivors of domestic violence. Once my son had started school, I applied to study psychology. North-East London Polytechnic was well known for providing a good undergraduate course in psychology and for welcoming older students; as importantly, it was only a few stops on the Central Line from my home. In my final year, my supervisor suggested that I should apply for the one-year M.Phil. at the Institute of Criminology, in Cambridge. That brought me to Lucy Cavendish Collegiate Society, with Dr Marie Lawrence as my Tutor.

At that time, Lucy  was very much an “outsiders’ institution”, with few of the  awards, travel grants, or access to research funds available to – and boasted about - by my peers at other Cambridge  Colleges. What I found instead was the commitment to women’s education and the creation of a safe supportive environment in which to focus on academic study. It was here, in discussion with Dr Lawrence, that I made some significant decisions, firstly to try to have a career rather than just a “job for money”, and secondly, for that career to be one in which I could apply my academic skills to benefit people with LDs and/or autism spectrum conditions.  I’ve been fortunate that things have generally worked out as I hoped.

I wasn’t active in the Alumnae Association until last year when my commitments in London ended. I read a bit about the Alumnae Association and its aims, attended a committee meeting, contributed to the Alumnae Weekend and subsequently at the AGM volunteered to act as Secretary. As a newcomer, my experience is that the committee is welcoming, active, supportive, and focussed; in fact, much like College.  Relationships with College staff, and the Development Office in particular, are excellent. It’s also very good fun. Please support the Alumnae Association by coming to our events and even by joining the Committee; we would love to see you.

Isabel Clare

Dr I.C.H. Clare