History shines light on hidden lives of people with a learning disability in Wales

Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Social Services, speaking at yesterday’s event

Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Social Services, speaking at yesterday’s event

Welsh Government offers £18,000 grant to help Mencap Cymru deliver project

A unique national project by Mencap Cymru, to highlight the hidden heritage of people with a learning disability in Wales, was launched at The National Eisteddfod of Wales in Llanelli yesterday, Wednesday 6 August.

The Hidden Now Heard project captures the living memories of former residents and staff from six of Wales’ long-stay hospitals: Hensol, Llanfrechfa Grange, Ely, St David’s, Denbigh and Bryn-y-neuadd.

This is the first national project of its kind and, working in partnership with the National History Museum in St Fagan and six regional museums, it will capture a hidden and often painful part of Wales’ history before it is lost forever.

Using oral historical accounts, other research, artefacts and documents, six regional exhibitions will take place across the next two years beginning with stories from Hensol at Swansea Museum.

The project, has received a £292,900 grant award by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Mencap Cymru was also required to fundraise £31,000 in match-funding for the project and today received a cheque for £5,000 from George Parker of Parker Plant Hire to contribute to the project.

Speaking at the launch today, the Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas confirmed the support of the Welsh Government by offering an £18,000 grant to help Mencap Cymru deliver this important project.

Addressing the launch at the National Eisteddfod, the Deputy Minister for Social Services said:

“People with a learning disability are now living their lives in the community and making a valued contribution to society. Some are in paid employment whilst others are working on a voluntary basis.

“The Hidden Now Heard project will hopefully inform the development of appropriate care and support for people with a learning disability in the future. And demonstrate that people with a learning disability can and do make a valuable contribution to society.

“I am pleased that the Welsh Government was able to contribute to the match-funding that Mencap needed to secure the Heritage Lottery Grant.”

Manon Williams, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said:

“This is a one-of-a-kind project that will capture a part of our national heritage that historically has not been well recorded or preserved and we are thrilled to be able to support it. The project provides an excellent example of how diverse HLF-funded projects are; we want to ensure all parts of our rich heritage are preserved and maintained, not only the physical heritage. This project ensures that a hidden element of our history will now be shared with all for many years to come.”

Acknowledging the support of the HLF and donors, including the Welsh Government and George Parker, Mencap Cymru Director Wayne Crocker said:

“This HLF grant will help us to start work on our three year project collecting memories, collating artefacts and photographs, which will be on display in six regional museums across Wales.

“I’m thrilled that we’ll now be able to ensure that real stories of real people with a learning disability affected by this hidden history will now be told and will undoubtedly have an impact on how future generations understand the lives they lived.

“What is particularly pleasing is that the Welsh Government has agreed that the project is of national interest and have supported us with a grant of £18,000.”

Welcoming the grant award Lord Dafydd Wigley, Mencap Vice President said:

“Many people in Wales have a connection to this, at times, uncomfortable part our history and are aware of the stigma attached to long-stay hospitals. This project will hopefully help change perceptions and create better understanding of people with a learning disability and their families whilst also ensuring that this important part of our history is recorded and remembered.”

About Mencap Cymru

Mencap Cymru campaigns and lobbies to ensure that people with a learning disability and their families are valued equally, listened to and respected across all parts of Welsh society. For more information, visit www.mencap.org.uk/wales

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