Harborne-based Cerebral Palsy Midlands was founded in 1947, when the charity established the first school in England and Wales for people with Cerebral Palsy.
The charity is run for, with and by people with Cerebral Palsy. Through its person-centred core projects, Person 1st, URconnectABLE (”you are connectable”) and LIFEskills (”Learning independence for everyone”), Cerebral Palsy Midlands provides support to people in our community of interest to enable them to fulfil their role as citizens.
The creation of a community
In 1946, Dr Carlson was invited to Birmingham where an important meeting was held with the local council and health authorities. The aim of that meeting was to provide services for people in Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Herefordshire. A major result from this meeting was the creation of the Midland Spastic Association in 1947.
In conjunction with setting up the MSA, as it became to be known, the setting up of a school for children with cerebral palsy occurred, with the help of the Ministry of Education and local authorities. A large house was brought in Harborne and converted into a school. Carlson House School became the first school in England and Wales to be dedicated directly to the education of children with cerebral palsy. It was opened with Miss Christine Woodall as the first Headmistress in September 1948.
The MSA had many difficult tasks ahead of it, but one of the most difficult was to trace people who had cerebral palsy in the West Midlands region. One of the first decisions that the MSA took was to setup a diagnostic clinic for children with cerebral palsy, in conjunction with the Institute of Child Health. It was the enormous work that the clinic did that convinced MSA leadership that a dedicated welfare service was needed, so that proper help and advice could be given to the parents of children with cerebral palsy. In 1950, Mavis Taylor became the first Welfare Officer of the charity. From a small room in the Carlson House School, she continued the task of giving help and advice to parents, which opened the way for more children with cerebral palsy coming into contact with the school and increasing their chances of getting a fair education.
Since the setup of the MSA, parent groups played an important role in the running of the charity. These groups met locally in the homes of their members, and were given the critical task of fundraising for the MSA. Many activities and social occasions were planned and carried out, involving the many families of children who attended Carlson School. Parents played a vital role in this early work of the MSA.
An important development was the setup of a visiting service for children with cerebral palsy in the region, with these home visits conducted by members of the Welfare department. These home visits were crucial in giving help and advice to parents. Welfare Officers gave information of the services and organisations out there that could help parents in the care and education of their children, and then contacting these services or organisations on the parent’s behalf. It became a valuable advocacy service that continues to this day through our URconnectABLE project.
The foundations of a community
The club did many different activities, such as drama, sports and having parties, activities any teenager would like to get involved in.
In 1955, an adult club was formed, which was run by parents and volunteers who gave valuable help to its activities. The club night became a weekly event and many people with cerebral palsy in areas around Birmingham became members. Much like the teenager club, it positively affected peoples’ lives in terms of social interaction and friendships; friendships that lasted a lifetime. Today, the charity’s Monday Night Club, held for people who come to our day centre, carry on the work that the adult club started; enriching people’s lives with friendship.
In 1956 a play centre was formed. This helped to draw attention to smaller children who were not old enough to attend Carlson House School. The play centre became extremely popular, and attendance of the play centre grew during this period.
Finally, in 1959 a new club was founded; the Adventurers Club. Overall, these clubs positively affected peoples’ lives, by creating a community ‘atmosphere’, a sense of achievement through doing different activities, and lifelong friendships. This community feel continues to this day.
The building of our current daycentre
The 1950s saw the MSA develop rapidly, especially in terms of the number of children attending Carlson School, as well as the number of social, fundraising and club events that occurred. This meant that the demand for more building space was unavoidable. The Welfare Department was originally based in a Wooden Hut without any amenities. The building was extended, but it was still not big enough to cater for all the activities which had been planned and developed.
Ten years after the formation of the MSA, an appeal was sent out asking for financial help to build a new building in place of the original Welfare building. A fundraising campaign was started, and many trusts and individuals donated funds that proved to be vital in the raising of capital for the building project. In 1960 the foundations of this new building were laid. The building provided a new enlarged workroom, activity hall, kitchen and administrative offices, as well as vital office space for the Welfare Department to carry on its important work. The building became a centre full of activities and a real sense of achievement.
The change in attitude
The 1980s saw many celebrations and a change in attitude towards people with disabilities in our community. 1981 was the International Year of Disabled People which was to promote the full participation and equality of people with disabilities in every aspect of society - at home – at work and in leisure – and to make the public more aware of how much people with disabilities can contribute to society. The work done at the MSA centre was, and still is, evidence of how much people with disabilities can contribute to society.
1982 saw an exciting idea become reality when a new training flatlet was opened. Following on from the celebrations of 1981, the flatlet was seen as a great opportunity to enable people to gain greater independence and gain valuable knowledge in life skills, such as cooking, money management, social skills and personal hygiene. 1982 also saw the closure of Carlson House School. The school, which had helped to educate and enrich the lives of children with cerebral palsy, gave way to a supported accommodation development, which allowed many people with disabilities the freedom of living on their own, and having their own independence.
1987 saw the MSA celebrate its 40th birthday, and the new flats, now called Carlson Park, were now ready for their new tenants. The Princess Royal was invited to open the flats officially in October of the same year, and a plaque was unveiled to mark the occasion. She toured the flats, the daycentre and met many of the people who attended the centre.
The introduction of IT
The existing clubs and activities at the centre continued to grow, and with the growing importance of computer technology in everyday life, more educational groups were setup to educate and inform people about this particular subject. More specialist tutors were also appointed to help with these educational groups, including a cookery tutor, a Speech and Language Therapist and a Training and Assessments Officer.
In 1996 the Midland Spastic Association changed its name to MSA for Midland People with Cerebral Palsy. The change of name came about from disabled people in society becoming far more aware of their rights as citizens, and also how much they can contribute to society like any other citizen. Replacing the term ‘spastic’ from the name of the charity was very important for people within the MSA community, as the term had unfortunately become a derogative term in society, rather than just a descriptive term of a disability. 1997 saw the 50th anniversary of the formation of MSA, and big preparations were made to celebrate the first 50 years of the charity.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 2005 amended the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. The most important aspect of the amendment is that the definition of disability is widened and promoting disability equality is taken up by public sector bodies, authorities and employers. The idea is that disability equality should be considered at the beginning of every process, for example at the beginning of a recruitment process for a job. People should be employed on merit, not due to their gender, ethnic background or level of disability.
In October 2004 at the charity’s AGM, members voted for a change in name from MSA for Midland People with Cerebral Palsy, to Cerebral Palsy Midlands. The idea of changing names was to focus more on the condition and that people become more aware of it in society. The charity was officially re launched in October 2005 under this new name, under the strategy of promoting empowerment of people within its community. Following an extensive report conducted by Inlogov School of Public Policy, The University of Birmingham, 22 recommendations were made to improve and evolve the service that the charity gives, and three main projects were created: URconnectABLE, Person 1st and LIFEskills, all centred towards promoting people’s independence in terms of accessing the community, life skills, such as money management, social skills, as well as promoting person centred planning; that everyone is an individual and unique in society.
The re launch of the charity also coincided with the creation of the Citizen Model of Disability in September 2005, an informal model created by people within the CPM community. The model was created as a natural progression of the Social Model of Disability, which was created by Professor Mike Oliver and Peter Bailey in 1975. The Social Model followed the view that society is needed to change so that people with disabilities and their needs can be accommodated, and also that people should wait for society to change. The Disability Discrimination Act reinforced that people with disabilities not only have rights, but also responsibilities as members of society. Our Citizen Model of Disability backs up this view and seeks to enable people to obtain their due rights and empowerment.
As well as the re launch of the charity and the creation of the Citizen Model of Disability, the charity also sought ways of improving its facilities. In 2006 a multisensory room was developed with the intention of allowing people to have a comfortable room in which to engage in physiotherapy, music therapy and general relaxation. In 2010, a fully furbished catering kitchen was installed, replacing the centre’s original kitchen. Now a hot meal and drink service is in place, allowing people more freedom on what they would like to eat.
Since 2008, the charity has engaged in allowing educational placements to be had at the centre. Health and Social Care placements from college, work experience placements from secondary schools and social work student placements from local universities have occurred regularly at the centre, allowing CPM to help train and educate professionals within the sphere of Health and Social Care. During 2010 and to the present, CPM has been heavily involved in employment of unemployed people through the governments Future Jobs Fund employment scheme, getting people into work and giving them necessary qualifications and training in the field they are employed in. By the end of the scheme in August 2011, CPM will have employed 43 people in total at various intervals during this period.
Since 2008, CPM has been heavily involved in the use of Graphic Facilitation at the centre. Graphic Facilitation is the use of symbols, pictures and graphics in putting over a message or a display. As some people with cerebral palsy might have a reading impairment, Graphic Facilitation allows people to communicate far better, in an equal way. The Equality Act of 2010 recognises equality for all, and Graphic Facilitation allows fair and equal communication to people who might have difficulties with reading.
Another big development in how the charity works has occurred since its re launch in 2005. Huge emphasis is now put into networking with different organisations and other third sector bodies in that the aim of CPM; empowering the people within its community, is achieved.
Without doubt the most popular change has been the introduction of a regular foreign holiday programme, commencing with a group trip to Euro Disney in Paris in 2007. We are now part of a European project, called “Makeable”; working with partner organisations in Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia and Spain.