Ahead of Birmingham's Big Noise event at Town Hall this Friday 14 June, Town Hall Symphony Hall spoke to Midlands Mencap's Chief Executive Dave Rogers about their 70th Anniversary.
What does it feel like to be celebrating the 70 anniversary of Midland Mencap?
It’s very exciting to reach this milestone but at the same time incredibly humbling. Our organisation was founded by pioneer families who were fighting for basic human rights for themselves and their children. Other than institutions there was no community provision or even access to basic educational support and families were left to their own resources and resilience to cope. As we celebrate the 70th Anniversary we believe the organisation still reflects its founding principles as we continue to campaign for the rights of citizens and families and this important anniversary is a fitting celebration of their legacy
What have been the biggest changes during the last 70 years?
Though we still have many barriers, prejudices and challenges to face and address the biggest change has been the relentless movement that is driving inclusion and equality for people with a learning disability. The closure of long stay hospitals under the Community Care Act was progressive and laid the first foundations for people with a learning disability to become valued and active citizens, leading lifestyles of choice within their own communities.
Are there any key Midland Mencap initiatives that you’re particularly proud of?
There are so many, closing our care homes on 2005 paving the way for people to live independently with support was huge as it also encouraged Birmingham City Council to close its remaining residential care homes for people with a learning disability too. A watershed moment in Birmingham. Developing short break services for children, many with complex needs, has also been critical for families by increasing vital support to them. Leading the consortium that became Forward Carers ensuring a world class offer to family carers in Birmingham was hard work but very special. Offering a wide range of community activities, including leisure, hobbies and sport has contributed massively to people making friends, becoming physically active and combatting the negative impacts of isolation and loneliness. More recently watching our hockey team win the European Para Hockey Championships representing England was quite incredible, such an achievement. And we can’t overlook ParkRide, a brilliant new offer of inclusive family cycling that is capturing the imagination of so many people in the region and beyond. Where to stop with these stories is difficult. I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved in partnership with citizens, families and other stakeholders.
What are your hopes for the next 70 years?
My biggest hope is that we crack the world of employment for people with a learning disability. In Birmingham we think less than 1% of adults with a learning disability holds a full-time paid job and that’s out of a population of 40,000 adults!! Quite shocking, and there’s so much talent out there which could be making a massive contribution to the economic fortunes of the region. There’s a real challenge that needs to be laid down at the front door of employers across the region to work with us to address this shameful discrimination.
How has the relationship with Town Hall Symphony Hall over the past 5 years helped your families, carers, staff and networks?
This has been a hugely important relationship for us. The determination of colleagues at THSH to place inclusion at the heart of their thinking as seen many families access the venues to enjoy both the relaxed and main programme events when previously this simply wouldn’t have been possible. The highly anticipated Christmas family celebration concert and the hosting of major carer events signifies the THSH commitment to supporting the drive for inclusion and equality. It’s been a brilliant relationship and partnership, long may it continue.
Programme Manager, Chris Proctor commented:
Firstly, a huge congratulations to Midland Mencap on reaching this momentous milestone in the organisation’s history. The relationship between Town Hall Symphony Hall and Midland Mencap over the last 5 years has grown to be one that is hugely positive, rewarding and enlightening. The exchange and sharing of knowledge, the mutual learning about the respective organisational needs and challenges, all underpinned by some of the most rewarding events we’ve had the privilege to be a part of. Working with Dave Rogers and the team at Midland Mencap to produce events, meetings and exhibitions on a local, regional, national and international basis in our venues is something that we’re immensely proud of, and look forward to continuing that journey together over the coming years – Happy 70th Anniversary Midland Mencap!