I Want What You Have: Five Decades of Making It Happen – A new book from the Camden Society

December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Front cover of I Want What You Have: Five Decades of Making It Happen

Launched to an excited audience of 120 people last night at the London Metropolitan Archives, I Want What You Have: Five Decades of Making It Happen is a wonderful new book, and the start of a new campaign, from the Camden Society – an organisation with the human rights of people with learning disabilities at its heart.

The final result of our two-year heritage project, the book is a collection of memories, reflections, photographs and scenes that illustrate the history of the Camden Society and the people who have built it.

Inside double page spread of I Want What You Have

A story of resistance, co-operation and progress, I Want What You Have acknowledges the less than ordinary lives that people with learning disabilities have lived. Set within the context of the social care policy of 20th century Britain, it begins by describing the experiences of people who were sent away to live in the long-stay institutions, built as a result of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913.

The book then outlines the determined efforts of a group of parents who founded the Camden Society in their Hampstead sitting rooms in the 1960s, before describing the hospital scandals and subsequent legislative changes that secured equal rights for people with learning disabilities across the country.

The second half is a celebration of the Camden Society’s resolute commitment to these rights for the last 44 years. With chapters describing the Society’s huge efforts to resettle Camden-born people back into their communities, and to successfully campaign when people’s lives in the community were threatened, to developing a wide range of innovative services to support people in the key areas of their lives, the book traces our journey right up to the present day. The final chapter offers an invitation to everyone who believes in human rights to get involved in organisations like the Camden Society to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are strengthened for the future.

Key to the book are 60 interviews with people with learning disabilities – members of the Society, past and present. Offering a privileged insight into the experiences of a group of people whose histories are often hidden, overall I Want What You Have attempts to document the enormous changes in social attitudes, legislation and opportunity that have seen people with learning disabilities gain greater visibility and equality over the last 50 years.

An accompanying DVD, Jack’s Legacy, includes Super 8 footage from the Camden Society archive.

I Want What You Have: Five Decades of Making It Happen plus DVD

I Want What You Have is a powerful and inspiration record. The Camden Society has printed 2,000 copies. If you would like one, find out more at www.thecamdensociety.co.uk/iwantwhatyouhave

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Show Your Support: ‘I Want What You Have’ Campaign Bags

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Help promote the Camden Society’s I Want What You Have campaign for 2011. Tote around with this stylish, washable, cotton eco-shopper, save the world from more plastic bags and get the message out. With long handles and space for books or shopping, keep it green and show your support for disability rights.

A limited edition, we have 250 bags available. In stock today, the bags cost £3.50 each, plus postage, and when they’re gone… they’re gone. To bag yours (excuse the pun) just visit the Camden Society’s website at www.thecamdensociety.co.uk/bags

Positive review for ‘I Want What You Have’ from the University of Kent

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here at the Camden Society we’re delighted that Paul Cambridge, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Kent has reviewed I Want What You Have. The verdict is fantastic! Enormous thanks to Paul for kindly providing the review below. We’d love you to read it, order a copy of the book here, totally free of charge we might add, and see for yourself:

REVIEW by Paul Cambridge, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent

This book provides a fascinating insight into the history and development of the Camden Society and in so doing documents the ways services and support for people with learning disabilities have changed and evolved over the last half century.  This account is related through a thematic chronology, reflecting and charting the key landmarks in the development of the Camden Society and in social care and social policy more widely for people with learning disabilities.

This complex territory is wonderfully illustrated and effectively related through a series of pictorial images and personal narratives that ground the book in the realities of the personal experiences of people with learning disabilities themselves.

It is this combination of techniques and evidence that make the book both unique and hugely valuable to a range of audiences – people with learning disabilities, public sector agencies and commissioners, voluntary sector organisations, academics and teachers and hopefully policy-makers in social care and learning disability.  I will certainly be using the book as a resource for my lectures in health and social care practice and social work, and the accompanying DVD resource – Jack’s Legacy – which uses archive footage to provide a rare window through which to glimpse a little known social world, providing a valuable learning resources for those interested in the social history of learning disability and the voluntary sector.  The DVD, together with the book, consequently provide examples of innovation and change which, because of their innovative qualities, are relevant to applied learning and valued service development for people with learning disabilities today.

I first had professional contact with the Camden Society in the early 1990s when I was involved in monitoring and evaluating the Department of Health’s Care in the Community Programme. I was struck by the innovative approach adopted for helping Camden residents who had been incarcerated in the old long-stay mental handicap hospitals, usually for no real reason by today’s standards, return to an Ordinary Life in Camden from terrible institutions such as St Lawrence’s Hospital, south of London.

I therefore saw at first hand the differences the Camden Society made to many people’s lives and the resistance often encountered when advocating for people with learning disabilities.  At a personal level I was therefore pleased to read the story of Carol in the section Out of Sight: Locked Away. It is also hugely important that society remembers how difficult and different things used to be for people with learning and other disabilities and this section provides valuable documentary exhibits which illustrate the ‘total institution’.

The book is also about a lot more however, as the sections focusing on employment, friendships and campaigning succinctly illustrate.  It therefore not only provides a case study of an influential organisation working in the field of learning disability using  a rich palimpsest of information and evidence, but also a testament to the fight services and service users have and still make in relation to the recognition of their voice and their individual and collective rights.  The language might have changed from mental handicap to learning disability, from community care to social inclusion and from dowry payments to personal budgets, but the tasks remain similar, as the sections Making it Happen and Still Fighting amply demonstrate.

It is rare that I am this enthused about a new book.  This is because I Want What You Have is a new and different kind of book.  It is not a traditional text or an academic book but this does not mean it is not hugely relevant to learning.  It is reflective and prospective.  It is a book for many audiences and a book packed full of images and accounts.  It is like Valuing People and Valuing People Now should also have been about.   It is therefore a book people with learning disabilities and everyone working with or for people with learning disabilities, or in social care more widely, should have.   Above all, Want What You Have provides a model and testament for best practice in the field.

Paul Cambridge, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent at Medway  ME4 4AG

The UK’s First Disability History Month Launched

November 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

UK Disability History Month logo

Launching today, the UK’s first Disability History Month offers a long overdue opportunity to celebrate the struggles and achievements of people with disabilities on a national scale.

Supported by 33 disability organisations, trade unions and third sector organisations, the event hopes to build greater understanding of the barriers that people with disabilities face, and supports the ongoing campaign for greater equality. UK Disability History Month will run from 22 November to 22 December 2010 and will see a number of events staged across the country in schools, universities and workplaces.

Aiming for the visibility and profile of initiatives such as Black History Month and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Month, both of which are now established ‘months’, Disability History Month hopes to gain momentum and support for future years.

The Camden Society is delighted that their launch of I Want What You Have coincides with the very first national celebration of disability history and encourages everyone to get involved, to support this important celebration and to help to raise the profile of rights for people with disabilities.

Find out more about Disability History Month at www.ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com