Resistance in Mencap’s history
Elizabeth Tilley

Mencap’s history has changed over time within a framework of resistance. However, the issues that members of the organisation have resisted have changed since the Society’s foundation in 1946, and it is of particular interest to see how and why these shifts have occurred.

This presentation will concentrate mainly on Mencap’s history from the 1970s. In the 1970s, the organisation was vigorously resisting cuts in services for people with learning disabilities, at both the national and local level. At this time, few members of the Society were questioning how their children were being represented by Mencap, or indeed by anyone else, as they were more concerned with securing basic provisions.

However, in subsequent years, the focus of many members’ resistance turned towards Mencap itself, as some parents rejected the pitiful images that the Society was portraying of their children in various publicity campaigns. This presentation will show how the emergence of such debates impelled Mencap to make considerable changes in the way it represented itself at the beginning of the 1990s. It will also demonstrate how these developments affected the organisation at a local level, creating new tensions, as well as easing old grievances.


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