A better life for people with learning disabilities

Brother and sister Maggie and John fondly recall how their parents Frank and Adita championed the rights of people with a learning disability.

“When our older sister Barbara was born in 1953 with Down Syndrome, our parents thought long and hard about her future. Where would she be living when she became an adult?” said Maggie.

In the 1950s there were few options for people with a learning disability after education.

“Our parents had two choices for Barbara; either she could be cared for at home, or she could live in an institution. Our parents knew that there had to be another way.”

A new type of home 

Frank and Adita knew it wouldn't be easy for their dream of a new type of home for Barbara to become a reality, so they began planning her future while she was still a young child. 

“There was no government provision at the time to establish a new type of home, and if this home was to be created, it required fundraising," says John. "It was my parents’ vision to raise the money for a new style of home: the grounds, the equipment and the training of all of the staff."

Frocester Manor 

After many generous donations and a huge amount of fundraising, Frank, Adita and several other founding families formed Frocester Manor, a large Georgian house with land in the Gloucestershire countryside.

The home had everything the residents could need. There was a working pig farm and an on-site craft shop where many of the residents worked and contributed. There was an enormous amount of energy poured into it by people like Frank and Adita.

In the garden at Frocester Manor in the 60s

It began initially as home to six young men, steadily growing to over 30 people once a bungalow was built on-site to house young ladies. This was Barbara’s first home after she left school. “It was her happy place,” shared Maggie fondly.

Hft - supporting people with learning disabilities for 60 years

Thanks to people like Frank and Adita, the charity Hft has transformed from a single home for six young people to a nationwide organisation that has supported over 2,200 people in the past 60 years – and it all started at Frocester Manor.

“In many ways, Frocester Manor, and Hft’s vision, became a blueprint for how homes for people with a learning disability could look and was replicated all over the country. It really was revolutionary," says John.

"Inclusivity was always at the heart of what Hft stood for. Dad wanted other families to know that if they couldn’t afford to get their child into a home like this, it wasn’t a barrier – they would find a way."

Frank was awarded an OBE in the 1990 New Year’s Honours for his amazing work in building Hft and for being an advocate for people with a learning disability.

Barbara's happy life

“When Barbara was born in the 1950s, she was expected to live to between 21 and 25 years old. She passed away in 2018 aged almost 66 after almost 50 very happy years with Hft – and as a married woman.”

In 2003, Frank had the honour of walking Barbara down the aisle, as she married Roger, who she had been friends with since she was aged six, in 1959.

Barbara and Frank
Thanking the wonderful staff at Hft

As Hft celebrates its 60th anniversary, Maggie and John have some warm messages for everyone at Hft. Even though Frocester Manor is no longer an Hft home, John reflected on how important the home was for their sister.

“I want to thank all the different key workers and support staff who helped Barbara have a wonderful life over so many years," says John.

They really made life at Frocester Manor, and the Hft homes Barbara subsequently called home, very special for our sister.”

John concluded, “It seems fitting to thank and remember all of the different family members over the years whose energy and resilience made Hft what it is today. Without them it would not have been possible.”

Leaving a gift in your Will to Hft

Gifts in Wills, no matter how small, can help Hft to continue delivering outstanding services to people with learning disabilities, for another 60 years and beyond. 

If you'd like to find out more about leaving a gift in your Will to Hft, please visit www.hft.org.uk/gifts-in-wills/

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