Hidden Now Heard - a learning event

June 26, 2017

Yesterday myself and three fellow students’, Sarah Knowles, Rachel Evans and Siobhan Muir accompanied Professor Ruth Northway MBE to Mencap’s Hidden Now Heard Learning Event in Cardiff. Hidden Now Heard is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


It was a good learning experience with inspirational people telling their stories about their time and involvement in the institutionalised system and the hidden now heard organiser’s explaining the challenges that they faced when collecting oral history.


An ICO representative spoke about Data protection and Heritage, as a first-year student I had to quickly google ICO, it’s the Information Commissioner’s Office. This lady did well in standing her ground to some challenging questions from the audience, our take on it as students was, “It is apparent that Data Protection is complicated and while it serves its purpose in protecting people it can also hinder information gathering with good intentions”.


Professor Catherine Bright gave a brief presentation about paternalism and risk. We feel she did well in getting the point across and as students our understanding of benign paternalism is that it has a reductionist approach, as in these cases it can prevent individuals from telling their stories, possible losing vital history information. Our thoughts on this were “ask the question”, if people want to tell their story empower them to do so by providing individualised support they need, after all it’s their story to tell!!!!


An interactive session started with a simple task of, how do you like your tea? Everybody had their own views on this some not liking tea at all. This was a novel way leading up to the fact that residents of institutions had no choice, they had their tea all the same out of one urn with a standard green mug as issued. For us this highlighting the point that there was no person-centred approach to their care and therefore little regard to personal identity.


In contrast nurses gave their account of their time working in the institutions, they spoke of their values and how they worked tirelessly during the resettlement period to provide the best quality of life to the people in the institutions whilst they waited to be resettled ensuring they still had the chance to live and weren’t just left hanging around waiting for appropriate accommodation.


As students, we were struck by all the positives that people living in the institutions had, as previously probably naivety and ignorance led us only to believe about the negative aspects of living in the institutes as these are usually the stories that are portrayed in the media such as abuse and mistreatment of people. However, hearing the history there were some positive aspects such as freedom to roam the grounds, security, the rights to intimate relationships and friendships of their own choices. Resettlements took this away from people as they were often placed in communities near their families which were not necessarily familiar to them having spent most of their lives out of area.


I feel the day had so much important information delivered in a well organised and well-presented way. There were many accounts by excellent speakers of their experiences, with the key speaker for me being Cllr. Sarah Pickard her presentation skills had me in total admiration. Not only did she compere the day but she also spoke about the challenges she faced from the perspective of someone with a learning disability collecting information on oral history. Sarah also chaired the panel of project participants to which she set and answered questions admirably.


As a student learning disability nurse learning this history is vital to understand how services have evolved emphasises the importance of change with progress continually being made to promote individualised person-centred care. To echo Wayne Crocker who highlighted the quote of the day to be; Giving people with a learning disability choice will always be a political action! As students, this is a mantra which could become a daily working battle as regardless of personal actions we will always need laws to aid us to support the vulnerable people in society.


It was great to attend this event, particularly as it was learning disability awareness week.


Catherine Davies

Learning Disability Student Nurse

University of South Wales


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