Friday, December 08, 2006


I recently became a Director on the Board of a small local charitable organisation called SNAP. You can see more about the organisation by clicking here

The aims are to enable parents and carers, the voluntary sector and statutory bodies to work together on behalf of children with special needs. Last night I attended the Annual General Meeting of SNAP and saw a DVD about the leisure activities of some of the young people.

I watched the young people with special needs enjoying themselves in Drayton Manor Theme Park alongside other young people. It made me think about my early career in the NHS when many of these young people would have found themselves completely isolated from the rest of society in long term care in hospitals. Amazing to think this was the policy until as recently as the 1980’s

In 1983 I was appointed as the hospital manager responsible for the closure of a large hospital for people with learning disabilities. It is horrifying to think it is only 20 years ago we had hospitals where patients’ liberty was taken away from them and their dignity was definitely not respected. I remember for instance one hospital ward that had no doors on toilets.

The most rewarding period of my entire career was without a doubt working in learning disability services from 1980 to 1986.

I hope in 2006 these people are at long last enjoying the rights the rest of us take for granted. I hope people are aware that learning disability is not an ‘illness’ and therefore we must not label them as ‘patients’ – it really is as simple as that. These people have the same rights as me.

There still are many critics of the closure of large hospitals for people with a learning disability but I have always been a passionate supporter of it providing there are adequate support services for the people who leave the hospital.

SNAP is an amazing organisation that started from an idea and discussions around the kitchen table ten years ago of women who wanted to do something positive and practical to support parents and the young people with special needs.

It was wonderful to hear how far SNAP has come and to hear about the high esteem in which both the staff and the organisation are held by parents.

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