Bedfordshire Mencap
Bedfordshire Mencap

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Bedfordshire Mencap

4.2 What pressures for change were exerted?

The emphasis is very much on the impetus individuals gave to change. Jim Nickson in particular seems to have been a man with energy and vision. The parents set up their own services where they were missing – a holiday chalet, swimming sessions, a club where young people could meet, above all the long-established Welfare Visitor Scheme. They campaigned for services in the community as an alternative to hospital admission. A strong theme is that work they started was often taken up by the local authority later and provided through the statutory sector.

Less obvious, but also important, was greater visibility for families with children with learning difficulties. That, says Ann Tombs, was the big contribution of the 1971 Education Act which gave people the right to an education, however severe their impairment, and meant they were visible in the community as they travelled to and from school. Brenda Nickson and Rene Harris (quoted in Section 1) both indicate how isolated they felt, not knowing other families in similar situations. Mencap changed that.

There are now new pressures for change within Mencap itself. Kim Bell believes that it's too heavily dominated by older parents who do not adequately represent what her son's generation demands – independent living, work opportunities, fully inclusive education. She believes that the name itself needs to change with the times.

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