From an asylum to their own home, meet these two friends

Maggie and Doreen’s lives are chapters from our social history.

Maggie and Doreen met in a large asylum

The pair, who have learning disabilities and complex physical needs, first met when they were placed in a large asylum in Sheffield together in the 1930s.

They instantly hit it off, providing a friendly, reassuring face for each other through some tough times.

Their friendship survived the war, rickets, German measles and general malnourishment. They shared a bedroom with 13 other people. Maggie would often be pulled around in a cot.

There was little opportunity to leave the building and people with fewer physical disabilities would often help support others because staff numbers were so low.

This was Maggie and Doreen’s life for over 40 years…

They moved into a hospital

As part of the national policy to close asylums in the 1980s, the pair were transferred to a hospital together.

However, they were put in different rooms and for a while were even on separate wards.

Shared bedrooms, clinical settings, little stimulation and few opportunities to leave the hospital meant that the experience was worse, rather than better, for the two ladies.

Then they moved to a shared home

Care in the Community followed, and with it a move to a 6-bedroomed residential home during the 1990s.

A private bedroom each, four other housemates and higher staffing levels really gave Maggie and Doreen the chance to take their first steps to more independent living.

It was certainly the first chance they were given to make their own choices and to join the local community.

Maggie loved her privacy and initially refused to leave her own room. Doreen took time to get used to sleeping in the dark – the lights were never off at night in the institutions.

The invention of person-centred support planning led to more positive changes in their lives. In the past, they had been dismissed because they do not speak; nobody had taken the time to find alternative ways to communicate with them.

For the first time they were involved in the recruitment process, choosing staff to support them who matched their own interests and needs.

Maggie and Doreen now

Maggie now likes to have her nails painted. She loves anything ‘posh’ and has been supported to visit Claridges in London several times where she enjoys being called ‘Madame Maggie’.

Her bedroom is filled with ornate furniture and pretty jewellery. She chooses to furnish her room with designer items and enjoys going to spas.

Doreen is an adventurous person. She loves to visit Blackpool, goes to the cinema and has been on several holidays including cruises and Disneyland Paris. She’s even completed the Race for Life!

They share their own home

Recently, their shared dream of moving into their own home finally came true. Doreen was jumping around in her wheelchair and Maggie had tears in her eyes.

Living in a smaller property together means they have more one to one time with their support staff allowing them to have much more freedom to choose their activities and immerse themselves in their community, which has led to a growth in both ladies’ confidence levels.

Theirs is truly an inspirational friendship

But what is so great to see is their true friendship and love for one another – they have been through thick and thin together and the banter between them is incredible.

What is truly inspiring is that after years of being left in institutions, where they were treated poorly and their opinions went unheard, they finally have the life they deserve.

As more and more commissioners are tempted to reintroduce large scale care facilities for people with learning disabilities and autism, we hope Maggie and Doreen’s story will help them think again.

“Maggie and Doreen’s story made me feel Independent living, in its true sense, means living as you wish, in the way that makes most sense to Maggie and Doreen’s relationships, in their community and to the values of choice, control and self determination. Which translates for me, the TEAM that enabled this to happen (TEAM) stands for Together Everyone Accomplish More.

“I think more people should hear about Maggie and Doreen’s story of what can be achieved having Independent Living principles at the heart of person centred care at any age, can support and enable community involvement and the likes of Whorlton hall scandal illustrated where Maggie and Doreen journey first started is still with us, can become places of abuse and harm when people lack any visibility, a very powerful story. Thank you for sharing.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge

“Should be made into a film or even a documentary.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge

“Wow. I have been blown away by the passion in this story. In a few words it is possible to see lofty policy and seemingly distant decision making translated into people’s lives. This story has caused me to reflect on the small changes we all fight for every day for equality, for the ordinary and for people to live dignified and positive lives. My only sadness, and it is considerable, is the length of time these women have waited. Thank you for sharing Maggie and Doreen’s story, I wish them all the very best for the future.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge