Mencap has been the voice of learning disability since 1946 and are due to be the London Marathon’s official charity of 2020. What are their aims and how can you get involved?

Mencap are the leading learning disability charity in the UK. They work with care companies, carers, parents and individuals with a learning disability to give all such people a much better overall quality of life including making sure they have access to the right healthcare and entry into a good quality of education.

With over half of disabled people reporting feeling lonely (data compiled by Sense in 2017), it is of utmost importance that accessible leisure activities and social events are available. One of Mencap’s aims is to support friendships and relationships. A way in which they do this is by affiliating with around 400 Gateway clubs across the country.

Formed in 1967, the Orpington and Bromley Gateway Club is a leading light for the approximately 90-140 carers and individuals who take part. The club takes place every Friday from 7 until 9:15PM. Their list of exciting entertainment includes (but is not limited to) games nights, a monthly art session and an annual New Year’s party. Anyone with any learning disability who is over the age of 18 are welcome to attend once they reopen. Alternatively, you could volunteer either at their club or one near you. If you want to get involved, you can apply via the Mencap website or by joining an organisation which recruits people for charity such as Community Links Bromley. More information and contact details are available on their website

Cliff Shepherd, a volunteer of about 20 years, believes “One thing Mencap’s done is change the population’s view on the mentally handicapped, as they were then know. Before Mencap formed, many people were left undiagnosed and were placed in psychiatric hospitals. It was exceedingly difficult to get out unless relations were supportive.” Since then, Mencap’s campaigns have made the law, employment and nation more inclusive to people with learning disabilities. For example, they have launched a project called the Right Place, an initiative aiming to get SEND (special educational needs or disabilities) learners into various work placements. They have also appeared in parliament in order to try and make their individual stories heard and spark change.

On 1st May 2019, they were named the Charity of the Year by the London Marathon. They aim to raise £1.5 million when it takes place in October. However, they need help now. In light of the current circumstances regarding COVID-19, Mencap are asking for donations so that they can help their support workers. In addition, they are in urgent need of part-time, full-time or relief support workers across the country. Visit their website for more information.

Amelia Downs