It all began in 1946...


  • In 1946 Judy Fryd, a mother of a child with a learning disability , formed 'The National Association of Parents of Backward Children' - which later became Mencap.
  • She wrote to 'Nursery World' magazine inviting other parents to contact her. Many wrote back to Judy expressing their anger and sorrow at the lack of services for their children.


  • In 1955 the association changed its name to 'The National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children' and opened its first project, the Orchard Dene short-stay residential home.
  • In 1958, the National Society launched a ground-breaking project called the Brooklands Experiment. This compared the progress of children with a learning disability who lived in hospital with a group of children who were moved to a small family environment and cared for using educational activities modelled on those in 'ordinary' nurseries. After two years, the children in the home-like environment showed marked improvements in social, emotional and verbal skills. The success of the experiment was published around the world.

The life of Judy Fryd

In 1946 Judy Fryd, a mother of a child with a learning disability, wrote a letter to Nursery World to highlight the unfairness of her daughter being sent away from a mainstream school.

Little did she know she would start a movement.

This is her story.


  • In 1963 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother opened the National Society's new hostel and training workshop in Slough, Buckinghamshire - the first training centre of its kind for adults with a learning disability.
  • In 1966 Mencap started the Gateway clubs, offering sports and leisure opportunities for people with a learning disability.
  • In 1969, the society changed its name to 'Mencap'.


  • In 1975 Mencap's Pathway employment service began.
  • The Mencap Trust Company was set up in 1976 to provide a discretionary trust service for families.


  • Mencap's influence and campaigning work saw people with a learning disability included in the Further and Higher Education Act.
  • Mencap set up the first homes and community -based accommodation for people with a learning disability in the UK.
  • In 1985, Mencap's services for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities were founded. These were among the first in the UK.
  • A new national survey of disabled people included people with a learning disability.
  • In 1986, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother became the patron of Mencap.


  • People with a learning disability were elected as Mencap national assembly members and became fully involved in decisions about how Mencap is run.
  • In 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act was passed. It aimed to end the discrimination faced by many disabled people and to guarantee their civil rights .
  • In 1998 Golden Lane Housing was established.


  • In 2001 the government published ‘Valuing People' white paper .
  • In 2004 the Countess of Wessex became Mencap's patron.
  • In 2004 Mencap launched its new five-year corporate strategy called ‘Equal chances', which focused on securing equal chances in life for all people with a learning disability.
  • In 2005 the government published a report, ‘Improving the life chances of disabled people', and set out plans to improve the quality of life of disabled people by 2025.
  • In 2006 Mencap celebrated 60 years as the leading UK charity for people with a learning disability.
  • In 2008 Mencap rebranded as part of the plans to make Mencap a more modern and dynamic organisation. This included the launch of new font, FSme, developed with people with a learning disability.
  • In 2009 The Department of Health published ‘Valuing People Now', a three-year plan for learning disability services in England.
  • In the same year, the UK finally ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It reaffirmed that disabled people have the same human rights as non-disabled people.
  • 2009 ended on a high, when the International Paralympic Committee voted to re-include athletes with a learning disability in the Paralympic Games.


2011Winterbourne View scandal is exposed by BBC Panorama. Since then Mencap and the CBF work with families to help move people with a learning disability out of inpatient units, to get the right care and support in their local communities.

2015: Mencap launched the Hear my Voice campaign for the general election, working with MPs to get learning disability issues higher on the political agenda

2016: The first stage of the Here I am campaign is launched to raise awareness and visibility of people with a learning disability. 

2018: Health campaign Treat Me Well is launched to transform how the NHS treats people with a learning disability in hospital.

2020: Mencap is the charity partner of the year for the Virgin Money London Marathon

Visit our campaigning history page for more information.

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