Thursday, 16 June 2005

Botton is tops

As I read recently of Lady Warnock's admission that her integration policy for people with special needs had failed, I was genuinely touched by sadness that a) such an issue could have been the subject of a social experiment and that b) we had let these people down so badly and for so long.

I have searched my soul on many occasions to decide how best to deal with the mentally handicapped. Integration, I concluded was actually more about making the rest of us feel better about ourselves than it ever was about doing the best for these people. Segregation of course seemed souless and inhumane, but ultimately I believed that it was best for them as it provided the safest environment for them to engage with life without confronting the reality of its unremitting harshness.

I have seen comparatively little of the mentally handicapped in my life and so I am very aware that I am in no position to judge but then tonight I watched the Channel 4 programme about the Yorkshire village of Botton and was enthralled and delighted.

For those of you who missed it, Botton is a sanctuary; a place where people with serious mental needs can live as real a life as possible, with each other, safe from harm and interference. As a father of small children, I could see how childish these adults were, but with supervision from genuinely kind people, they interacted with passion, liveliness, humour and attentiveness.

Botton is full and there is a waiting list to get in. Why? Just create new Bottons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Greetings to Richard from his friend & near neighbour, Ian. (well, a couple of miles up the road).

Just wanted to say -

Firstly, you are right - Botton is great. I'm interested in it because I visited there once to give a concert, because I used to live 20 minutes down the Esk valley from there, and because my late aunt had Downs and I think places like Botton do a lot for people with mental handicaps (is that no longer PC?) in their own way. Not quite the same as proper integration into a caring and supportive society at large, but still great.

Secondly, I'm enjoying your blog, and you have inspired me to start one of my own - for now it's just lighweight wittering about our last sailing holiday, but I'll be back with something incisive - Richard deserves to be challenged by the best that hard-edged wolly liberalism has to offer in northwest Cambridgeshire - and I hope I won't cause such acute offence as that recent commenter did - but Richard, were you being a bit hasty?

All da best, Ian