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Farewell to Joan

posted 15 Oct 2009, 07:59 by Bexley Mencap   [ updated 29 Jun 2011, 04:52 ]
It was with mixed feelings that I decided to stand down as a Director and Chair of Bexley Mencap.  When I was asked 25years ago to include with my Nurse Management responsibilities working with and for children and adults with Learning Disabilities, I had no idea how this would change my life, and what a privilege and pleasure it would be to play a small part in their lives.  The objective then was to close the Dickensian institutional hospitals where168 Bexley residents were living their lives and to resettle them in Bexley, providing an ordinary model of life.

The opposition we experienced was immense, especially from neighbours when we sought planning permissions to buy or build houses close to them.  Parents and families, although wanting a better life for their families voiced there concerns that we were moving away from a medical and nursing model of care. Some had relatives that had spent most of their lives in institutions.  However, the help and support they gave our staff team was invaluable, to the successful transition of their sons, daughters and relatives from hospital patients to Bexley Residents.  Getting to know the people, supporting and teaching those who were able to learn the life skills that most of us take for granted and to be a small part of their development was an experience that I will never forget.  I have learnt so much from people with learning disabilities and what they can achieve if given the right support to experience new opportunities.  People with learning disabilities need, in my view, positive help and support, from people who believe in them, people who are role models for positive thinking.

So much has been achieved over the years, but those involved in planning for the future must ensure that the task of community inclusion we began, will not be set aside, until the objective of full acceptance of children and adults with learning disabilities as equal citizens, with their special needs acknowledged and appropriately met, within the community, is achieved.

Those who think that community inclusion will never be achieved for people with Learning Disabilities should remember the pessimists of the past, who amongst other things said 

  • ‘children with learning disabilities can not be educated’ 
  • ‘You will never close the institutions’
  • ‘People with learning disabilities will never get paid work’
  • ‘people with learning disabilities will not able to use ordinary transport’
  • ‘Self advocacy will not be achieved by people with Learning Disabilities’ 

One thing is for sure, keeping people with learning disabilities segregated, will never give the community the opportunity I’ve had  to meet and get to know, and enjoy the company of some very special people. 

I am so proud of our staff and volunteers, and feel confident that the people they serve are in very good hands.  As for me, I will be moving to Bromley, to be closer to my family, but Bexley Mencap will always have a special place in my heart.  I will be remaining a member, so will not lose touch.

Thank you all for wonderful memories