26 Mar 2007

The Open University explores the history of day centres for people with learning disabilities

The daily lives of people with learning disabilities in Croydon have been through lots of changes recently.

Once, people with learning disabilities had a choice of three large day centres – Waylands on Purley Way, Heavers Farm on Selhurst Road, Cherry Orchard on St. James’ Road or Crosfield, the sheltered employment workshop. Now many people take part in activities in smaller resource bases closer to where they live. Some go to South Norwood College or have a job, others go to coffee mornings or get involved in other leisure or social activities.

However, in all these changes the history of the Day Centres, visionary in their time, is in danger of being lost. But a project by The Open University, working closely with Social Services and other local agencies, hopes to change that.

The new project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has started to involve people who went to these day centres in the writing their own history.

Dorothy Atkinson, Professor of Learning Disability at The Open University said: “The project marks the end of one era but also helps usher in the new. It aims to create a unique collection of ‘stories’ – oral, documentary and pictorial – to be made accessible to people in Croydon and beyond.

“This is an exciting project for all sorts of reasons but especially because it involves people with learning disabilities on both sides of the microphone and camera – in telling their own stories but also enabling other people to tell theirs.”

Pat Hall, who used to attend Waylands and now attends the Peter Sylvester resource base, also thinks the project is important: “We need to keep the memories of day centres and everybody who used them. All this history needs to be opened to the public so they know how well we are doing now”.

The project will run until August 2008. During this time, people who remember the Day Centres are invited to share their memories in oral history interviews and photographs which will be collected. All the items collected will be looked after by the Local Studies Library and the Museum.

The project will produce two exhibitions with the Museum of Croydon. The first small-scale exhibition will run in the foyer of the Clock tower in May as part of the Learning Disability Arts Festival. The second will run in the summer of 2008.

Project Worker Helen Graham is keen to hear from people who used to attend or work at the Day Centres as well as from parents and carers who used them. She can be contacted using the details opposite.

Editor’s Notes

The project started in August 2006 and will last for two years. During this time we would like to hear and record people's memories of the Day Centres, Occupation Centres, Junior and Adult Training Centres or Social Education Centres and collect photographs and other materials.

When the project is complete these will be kept in the Local Studies Library and Museum at the Clocktower. We will also use the stories and materials to create a website, a booklet and an exhibition – so the history of day centres is shared.

People can get involved in lots of different ways:-
• They can volunteer to make a recording of their memories. We want to hear from people with learning difficulties, parents and Day Centre support workers.
• They can join the History Group. They will find out how to record memories and be involved in creating the website and the exhibition.
• They can give photographs and other materials.
• They can tell other people about the project.

Related courses:
- K101 Understanding Health and Social Care
- K202 Care, Welfare and Community
- K205 Communication and Relationships in Health and Social Care
- K303 Managing Care

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