What was life like in the past for people with Down’s syndrome?

In the early part of the last century legislation was introduced which led to the incarceration of thousands of people with learning disabilities in institutions known as long stay hospitals. Parents were made to feel ashamed of their children with learning disabilities and were routinely told to “Put him away and forget him”. Many of the public attitudes that still exist today stem from the policies of segregation, which were continued by successive governments. The 1944 Education Act advocated a selection process to decide which children were deemed “educable”.
Children with Down’s syndrome were deemed “ineducable” and therefore denied an education. This classification determined that their lives would be spent in institutions or at home with their families who were given no support. It was not until the 1971 Education Act that it was officially recognised that no child is “ineducable”, that children with learning disabilities had a legal right to go to school. It was also in 1971 that the White Paper “Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped ” appeared which advocated the closure of the long stay hospitals and the provision of services within the community. In the final two decades of the last century legislation was introduced to ensure that people with learning disabilities had the right to receive services and support within their own communities. This included the right to attend your local mainstream school.

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