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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 on the HB blog a slight departure from the usual fare. I thought you might like a story about what we're doing at the archive, or rather, how Royal Voluntary Service and the Archive are helping the wider charity and archive sector.
On Friday (5 June) I was honoured to co-present a workshop session at the British Academy for their research project, ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’. The project aims to identify and encourage those voluntary organisations with records relating to the formation of the modern welfare state after 1945, to digitise them and make them available to the widest possible audience.
This was the first of many events in this project aimed at getting those involved together and enabling us all to start a dialogue about how charities, academics and others might work together.
My session, which I presented with Rob Baker of Blind Veterans UK, was all about the ways in which large charities like ours use our Heritage especially how it is used in helping to promote and give context to the work our charities do now. With our Grandest Festival only a week away, this offered the perfect opportunity to show how the archive has relevance to modern campaigns.
Our Grandmakers will be running sessions on ‘Heritage Skills’ something which the Royal Voluntary Service has excelled in ever since its creation. This is not just limited to the jam making, toy making or sewing (the subject of three heritage display panels at the event), but women (and later men) using their skills and knowledge for the creation of service which have come to underpin our whole society.
WVS was one of the key players in the development of the welfare state we now take for granted, especially for the older people. As part of our work at the end of and directly after the war, we helped to create a workable system of home care which became the model for the entire country and also created the model for the modern old people’s home, which was enshrined in the 1948 Assistance Act. Also don’t forget the widespread adoption of Darby & Joan clubs!
Sharing our knowledge is something Royal Voluntary Service has always done throughout our history, and allowing us to help lead the sector and assist others in similar circumstances is the very essence of voluntary service.
If you live in London and can make it to Hoxton Square on Saturday 13 June, do go along; and if you do why not buy one of our new archive tea towels, or coasters, or apron, or postcards…
Thanks for the photo to CHARM
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 10:00
Monday, 08 June 2015.
Home Helps ,
darby and Joan ,
Old peoples homes,
Assistance act ,