Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

2.2 Life in an institution

To find out about living in institutions, you will now turn again to Mabel Cooper. Mabel was born in 1943 and lived in institutions for much of her early life. In later life Mabel became a campaigner against institutions and joined The Open University’s Social History of Learning Disability Group. This gave her the opportunity to tell her story, and to find out more by looking at her care records. In the next video in Activity 3, Mabel talks you through her experiences, starting with how she came to be in the care system in the first place.

Activity 3 Getting into the care system

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch this video in which Mabel describes how she came to be in the care system and note down the reasons she gives.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 4
Skip transcript: Video 4

Transcript: Video 4

You see, years ago, I didn't talk. I only said yes or no. Only because they used to just keep saying "shut up" all the time. I'm Mabel. I was taken from Mum when I was three weeks old because Mum was begging on the street. My grandfather didn't like the man she was going out with and said, you can't live here if you're going to marry this man. They said, well, you can't have a baby on the street.
The police took me away from Mum. And I was put in all these different homes. And Mum was put in Darenth Park. So I didn't see Mum again.
So I went to Bedford's home run by nuns off and on. And they said, sorry, so you can't stay here either. And then I went to St. Lawrence's. Because I went up to this place in town hall-- I think it was town hall-- to have a test to see how bad the learning disability is. And they said, you need care for the rest of your life. You need some sort of help for, you know. But I thought, how did they know that at that age?
End transcript: Video 4
Video 4
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Mabel’s mum was begging, so was homeless with Mabel as a baby. When they were separated, Mabel was put into children’s homes where she took a test and was told she needed care for the rest of her life.

Mabel remained in an institution until she was in her mid-forties.

Did Mabel’s story shock you? Maybe you think that happened a long time ago, and that it’s different today. Unfortunately, even today there are people who get caught up in the care system and are housed far from their families. You will learn more about that in Session 8.


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