Mencap Timeline

1946 – Where It All Began

gba09sgmencapMencap was established in 1946, by Judy Fryd, a mother of a child with a learning disability. It was originally called “The National Association of Parents of Backward Children”, before it became “Mencap”. Judy wrote to the “Nursery World” magazine, to highlight the unfairness of her daughter being sent away from a mainstream school, she also invited parents to contact her. Many parents did wrote back to Judy, expressing their anger and frustration in the lack of services for their mentally handicapped children.


In 1955 the association changed its name to ‘The National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children’ and opened its first project, the Orchard Dene short-stay residential home.

In 1958, the National Society launched a ground-breaking project called the Brooklands Experiment, comparing the progress of children with a learning disability who lived in hospital with a group of children who were moved to a small family environment and cared for using educational activities modelled on those in ‘ordinary’ nurseries. After two years, the children in the home-like environment showed marked improvements in social, emotional and verbal skills. The success of the experiment was published around the world.


  • In 1963 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother opened the National Society’s new hostel and training workshop in Slough, Buckinghamshire – the first training centre of its kind for adults with a learning disability
  • In 1966 Mencap started the Gateway clubs, offering sports and leisure opportunities for people with a learning disability
  • In 1969, the society shortened its name to ‘Mencap’


  • In 1975 Mencap’s Pathway employment service began
  • The Mencap Trust Company was set up in 1976 to provide a discretionary trust service for families


  • Mencap’s influence and campaigning work saw people with a learning disability included in the Further and Higher Education Act
  • Mencap set up the first homes and community-based accommodation for people with a learning disability in the UK
  • In 1985, Mencap’s services for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities were founded. These were among the first in the UK
  • A new national survey of disabled people included people with a learning disability
  • In 1986, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother became the patron of Mencap


  • People with a learning disability were elected as Mencap national assembly members and became fully involved in decisions about how Mencap is run
  • In 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act was passed. It aimed to end the discrimination faced by many disabled people and to guarantee their civil rights
  • In 1998 Golden Lane Housing was established


  • In 2001 the government published ‘Valuing People’ white paper
  • In 2004 the Countess of Wessex became Mencap’s patron
  • In 2004 Mencap launched its new five-year corporate strategy called ‘Equal chances’, which focused on securing equal chances in life for all people with a learning disability
  • In 2005 the government published a report, ‘Improving the life chances of disabled people’, and set out plans to improve the quality of life of disabled people by 2025
  • In 2006 Mencap celebrated 60 years as the leading UK charity for people with a learning disability
  • In 2008 Mencap rebranded as part of the plans to make Mencap a more modern and dynamic organisation. This included the launch of new font, FSme, developed with people with a learning disability
  • In 2009 The Department of Health published ‘Valuing People Now’, a three-year plan for learning disability services in England
  • In the same year, the UK finally ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It reaffirmed that disabled people have the same human rights as non-disabled people
  • 2009 ended on a high, when the International Paralympic Committee voted to re-include athletes with a learning disability in the Paralympic Games


Source of Research:


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