Welfare for the disabled

Work in the field of welfare for the disabled was part of WVS from the beginning through Health and Hospitals, Meals on Wheels, Clothing, Children’s Holidays and Old People’s Welfare, among other services. In the late 1960s WRVS set up the Welfare for the Disabled Department. This was a reflection on growing public awareness, the requirements of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970) and advances in medical science. WRVS provided many services through the department including clubs, handicrafts, holidays and diversional therapy. In this week’s blog we’ll explore the work of WRVS providing these services.

After the war the welfare state became a prime focus for the nation including social care for those in need of it. As usual WVS was at the forefront of any developments. In 1956 the Government produced the Piercy Report, it considered the rehabilitation of disabled people and accounted for what they could expect from the welfare state. Local Authorities responsibilities included catering “for the social need of the disabled in employment” and meeting “social and occupational needs of other disabled persons”. In some places WVS was already running clubs or helping Local Authorities with their own clubs. WVS also aimed to help people become as self-reliant as possible in their own communities and complete any medical care which would allow them to go home from hospital.

When WVS established Evening Centres in the 1960s to encourage younger people to join the organisation one of the tasks they gave them was to run clubs for the disabled. In London in 1962 the Bermondsey Evening Centre ran a club. Also in the 1960s the WVS Winged Fellowship Holiday Scheme this allowed anyone with a disability to go on holiday. WVS also provided services such as transport to clubs, activities and appointments for example in 1964 WVS in Golborne (Greater Manchester) took a lady who had suffered from polio on a walk (c.1.5 hours one way) and shopping trip to Leigh. Over the years Royal Voluntary Service hasn’t just provided services it has also promoted the latest research into the areas it focuses on. In 1968 WRVS raised awareness about a project at Edinburgh University into access for the disabled.

By the late 1960s WRVs had expanded its role in creating the Welfare for the Disabled Department which included the diversional therapy, reading, letter writing, mobile libraries, visiting, holiday centres and providing flats as part of WRVS’s Housing Schemes. Nationally in the 1970s there was a movement towards care in the community rather than keeping people in institutions, hospitals and psychiatric hospitals. WRVS provided many services which would help people being discharged from these places or moving out as they were closed.  Many of these services listed above were already in place in many departments of WRVS. This included clothing, the department produced a number of publications. The organisation also ran sessions to discuss the clothing needs of people with disabilities.  (WRVS Magazine 1971 p.14)

Through the Children’s Holiday Department WRVS Scotland provided holidays for blind and death children in the Glasgow and Helensburg area. They also informed the world on volunteering work and in 1974 told Japanese visitors, connected with welfare work in Japan, on a visit to HQ about care for older and disabled people in Britain. In the 1980s/1990s WRVS continued with all the services it had gradually been developing for 50 years. This also included arranging riding lessons for children with disabilities as Riding for the Disabled began to establish centres in the 1980s.  In 1992 WRVS established its charity status, with the need to fundraise and changing focus to Hospitals, older people’s welfare and emergencies the Welfare for disabled people’s department faded away. However many of the services it provided for example home libraries, talking books, wheelchair escorts in hospitals and clubs were continued and integrated into the areas it chose to focus on to support the welfare of all and the welfare state as Royal Voluntary Service continues to do today.

Of course in a fortnightly blog there isn’t enough time to discuss the huge amount of work done by Royal Voluntary Service in a single area. This whistle stop tour is here to give you an idea of the work the charity has been doing for society from a time of war to peace and beyond. You can find more detailed information about services we’ve provided on ArchiveOnline, Schools resources and Factsheets page.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 16 July 2018.

Labels: Disabled, WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Welfare, Social care

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