John Williams, co-founder of national learning disability charity FitzRoy, has won the Outstanding Contribution Award at the National Learning Disabilities Awards for transforming the face of social care services for people with learning disabilities in England.
Anna Galliford, Chief Executive of FitzRoy, is delighted John’s work has been recognised in this way.â€œJohn hasn’t just changed the lives of the people we support; he created a whole new way of seeing and supporting people with learning disabilities â€“ from hiding them away in institutions or their homes, to giving them back their independence.â€
With Elizabeth FitzRoy, John set up the charity over fifty years ago to challenge the social exclusion of children with severe learning disabilities, and to give them a life â€“ not just an existence. Despite huge opposition from local authorities, who said the proposed model of a family-sized home care setting would not work, FitzRoy’s first home thrived and the charity now supports over 600 adults across 60 locations.
The care model â€“ which is now common practice in England and Wales and offers an essential service for the more than 1.14 million people with learning disabilities in England â€“ was first launched in a small number of locations including Huw’s in Nottingham, named after John’s son who had a learning disability. The very first house was built in Hampshire where FitzRoy is still based and continues to provide local services as well as local employment.
John comments: â€œI am humbled to receive this award but the greatest achievement is that in just fifty years the care of those with learning disabilities has improved beyond our greatest expectations. This is due in no small way to the many carers who now follow the principles of our founder, Elizabeth FitzRoy. These principles are common practice now, but fifty years ago they were virtually unthinkable.
â€œIf Huw, my profoundly disabled son, had not had such a wonderful mother who also supported and encouraged my FitzRoy activities, such an accolade would not have come my way. It was the first time I have received a standing ovation but worth waiting nearly 89 years for.â€
Anna continues: â€œIt is wonderful that John’s work has been celebrated in this way. Along with Elizabeth Fitzroy, his dedication and vision completely transformed the lives of people with learning disabilities and the care they can now expect. We are as indebted to John as we are to our original founder, Elizabeth FitzRoy. His work has been instrumental in enabling us to grow and support over 600 people with learning disabilities today.â€
FitzRoy was shortlisted for a further two accolades at the inaugural gala ceremony, namely the Best Employer Award and Best Support Worker Award for Veronica Kelland, Donec Mews, Hampshire. The awards were organised by Care Talk magazine in association with the British Institute of Learning Disabilities and celebrate excellence in the learning disability care sector.