A CHARITY branch set up by campaigning parents is celebrating 40 years of raising funds for people with learning disabilities.

Bexley Mencap was formed in 1971 by people campaigning for better services and provision.

It took 20 years, but in 1991 the branch moved into its own premises, the Betty Tod Centre, offering advice and information while still campaigning and running projects.

That centre was demolished in 2008 and, after raising £150,000 over two years through fundraising, donations and grants, the charity moved into its new premises at Church Road, Bexleyheath, last April.

Manager Steve Davies said: “I think 40 years is a major step because the organisation can look back with real pride in what it’s achieved over those years.

“The most significant thing is we now own our own premises. For a small charity like our to own outright its centre is incredible.”

The charity, which has six paid staff and numerous volunteers, provides family support for parents and carers, an advocacy group, a play group and representatives on major forums.

Mr Davies said: “Of course looking back is one thing but we also need to look to the future at the issues and challenges we face now.

“We want to make sure we can protect the services for people in the area in light of the cuts Bexley faces in public spending.”

The anniversary celebrations will kick off with a big band extravaganza on April 2 from 7pm.

Featuring acts donating their time for a reduced fee, including the Belvedere Concert Band, tickets are £10.

To get one or a £3 annual membership call 020 8303 6336 or email office@bexleymencap.org.uk