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Friday 17 January 2020
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The life of Patricia Collen


BILD received funding for its Ageing Well project - which aims to provide up to date information to support older people with a learning disability to live a fulfilling life - from the estate of Patricia Collen.


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Patricia Collen, pictured above aged 94, lived at Normansfield long stay hospital from 1926 to 1997. Her story was first told in the book, 'Tales of Normansfield: The Langdon Down Legacy' by Andy Merriman and an article by Heather Cadbury and Michelle Whitmore, 'Spending time in Normansfield: change in the day to day life of Patricia Collen', appeared in The British Journal of Learning Disabilities in 2010.

These two accounts showed the huge changes that took place in the lives of many people with learning disability over this time.

Patricia's own story was particularly interesting as it involved her entering a private hospital in the 1920s, losing contact with her family and experiencing significant privations during the Second World War. Patricia saw the 'nationalisation' of Normansfield into the NHS in 1951, and experienced the restrictions placed on all its residents by the management regime of the 1960s - exposed in the Sherrard Inquiry in the 1970s - which meant residents like Patricia lost a lot of their individual identity and spent long periods with no occupation or stimulation.

The closure of Normansfield was announced in 1992, around the same time as the official solicitor traced Patricia's cousin, and the Court of Protection agreed that her money, which had accumulated over the years, could be spent on providing a home and live-in carers. Over time, her new surroundings helped Patricia to blossom and become part of her community.

Sadly, Patricia Collen has now passed away but her cousin has worked with BILD to develop a programme of work, funded by Patricia's estate, that will develop a set of resources on ageing well to help support older people with a learning disability to lead a fulfilling life.

These resources will be aimed at people with learning disabilities, support workers and managers and commissioners of services.

It is hoped that this work will provide a fitting testimony to the life of Patricia Collen.

Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability has installed a display board about the life of Patricia Collen which can be viewed here.

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Read More
Your can read more about Patricia Collen in an article written in the British Journal of Learning Disabilities in 2010.

Published in the ‘British Journal of Learning Disabilities’, Vol 38 pp 120-126. Reproduced with the permission of the Publisher. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.