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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
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.
This week I thought I would bring you something a little different from the ordinary.
As regular readers of this blog may know I have been (for nearly two years now, in between other things) working my way through and digitising for preservation purposes copies of our WVS/WRVS Bulletin. I have now got to the 1970s and the issues from these years are dominated by the beautiful illustrations of Molly Blake.
Molly worked for WRVS for many years in the property department at our offices in Old Park Lane, London, but also provided illustrations for posters, books, and not infrequently on her memos.
Not only do we have the published versions of her illustrations, but also some of the originals. One might naturally assume that the originals will be better than the printed versions, but this as you will see is not the case.
Like many artists and illustrators (myself included, I was an archaeological illustrator in a former life) we cheat a lot of the time. Molly’s drawings, usually in pen and ink on drawing film or paper provide an interesting example of the ravages of time, on both ink and glue. Changes to drawings, like in the example below, often involved drawing a new character and then literally pasting it with glue into the scene. The completed drawing could them be copied by the printer and it would look like a seamless illustration done all in one.
Unfortunately in the 40 odd years since these illustrations were done the glue has yellowed, ruining the illusion and in some cases the characters are falling out of their scenes as the glue has become brittle and ineffective. The other issue is bleeding of the ink, as you can see below, where the illustrations have got damp, not being stored in the best conditions for much of their life.
Printed copy from the WRVS Magazine
Original version, with bleeding ink
We are doing our best to preserve these precious illustrations for the future and properly packaged and stored hopefully the ink won't bleed anymore, the glue though is another problem!
I hope you liked this brief look at Molly’s work, and hopefully I can bring you some more in the future.
All illustrations copyright © Molly Blake.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Tuesday, 18 August 2015.
Washing up ,
Heritage Bulletin Blog,