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.