John and Andrew are twins with autism who live in the United Kingdom. They both also suffer from learning difficulties and mental health issues, which make their daily lives challenging. Their father took early retirement to help with their care. When he passed away from cancer, their mother was overwhelmed, until she contacted Mencap.
Mencap is an organization based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that is dedicated to providing services and support to families and individuals who are living with learning disabilities. They offer a wide array of services, including advocacy, housing options, education, employment services, and personal support to help individuals with disabilities live as independently as possible.
Mencap was started in 1946, when Judy Fryd, mother of a child with a learning disability, formed the “National Association of Backward Children.” The name was changed to “The National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children” in 1955, and shortened to Mencap in 1969. In 1986, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother became the patron of Mencap. Since then, the organization has worked to better the lives of countless people with disabilities through advocacy, research, and support.
With Mencap’s help, John and Andrew were able to move into their own home, with support. When their mother passed away, they were already established in their home, with a regular support system in place. The staff offered emotional and practical support for John and Andrew as they moved through their grief. Laura Miller is a staff member who has been working with John and Andrew for the past four years. She says,
“If they were in a house on their own then they wouldn’t wash up, they wouldn’t eat properly, their hygiene would be terrible because they don’t like to do things like that.”
Their sister, Jane, says,
“They do it with them, and that is the difference. Not for them, but with them.”
Laura and other support workers also accompany them on day trips to cafes and amusement parks.
“If we weren’t there I think their lives would probably be quite isolated. They wouldn’t get to go to the places that they do go and be able to have the freedom that they have, really.”
says Charlotte Privett, support worker.
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Mencap’s vision is a world where people with learning disabilities are valued equally, listened to and included. They believe that all people have the right to be included, to live independently, to find employment that allows economic freedom, and to have access to healthcare, community, friendships, relationships, and family. They work to promote change on three levels – to change society’s attitude and culture, to influence people who shape policy and practice, and to empower and directly support more individuals to live fulfilled lives.
Mencap has made a tremendous difference for people like John and Andrew, and their organization offers a template for those in other parts of the world who are looking for a way to support individuals with learning difficulties.
For more information about Mencap, see their website at www.mencap.org.uk.