Out of the Shadows: The Untold Story of People with Learning Disabilities and Autism.

Polly Braden

2014 - 2018

In 2014, I began work on a two-year project with the charity, MacIntyre. The aim was to look at how, with the right support, people with learning disabilities and/or autism could live fulfilling lives. Throughout this time I saw hope and possibility for people who were being supported by knowledgeable and specialised care workers. It left me wondering what happens to those people who haven’t found this kind of support; the ones who slip through the net or whose disability isn’t seen as being quite ‘bad enough’ to need support. How do they cope with the daunting prospect of moving from childhood to adulthood in a world where you need to be able to manage your time, resources and relationships or face the consequences?

The first statistic I came across was in the report, No One Knows, by the Prison Reform Trust where, as part of a literature review, they found that 20–30% of prisoners have learning disabilities or difficulties that interfere with their ability to cope within the criminal justice system.

In March 2016, I was commissioned by Multistory and we began a two-year exploration focused on finding people seemingly

‘in the shadows’. The more vulnerable the person, the harder it is to stay in touch, often because of no fixed address or contact details, sometimes poor health and broken support networks. Together with researcher, Rashmi Becker and Becky Sexton from Multistory, we spent nearly a year carrying out research. We contacted over

50 organisations across the country and met with key professionals such as Glynis Murphy from the Tizard Centre and Jenny Talbot from the Prison Reform Trust who have worked tirelessly for years to bring this subject to the attention of the general public. By January 2017, with Sally Williams on board as the writer, we felt ready to begin.

Sally and I spent a lot of time in 2017 driving between Bristol, London and West Bromwich to visit the ten people who share their stories with us through this book. Sometimes we would arrive

to find Rodney didn’t feel like seeing us, or Harry had got into trouble and was back in prison. On other occasions, we would be happy

to see Lindsey preparing for her first day of volunteer work after

a life spent in and out of prison. This journey, at times sad, at times frustrating, has also been inspiring and uplifting.

Polly Braden

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  • Harry at his hostel in Bristol, 2016. 'They can be targeted and coerced into doing criminal acts' Pip Hodge.

  • Lindsey in the quiet lounge in Elms, rehabilitation unit for women outside Birmingham

  • Roy in his bedroom at the secure hospital

  • Roy

  • Roy's visual diary for when he 'gets into situations' which he will present to the group as a year-long Thinking Skills Offender Programme (TSG)

  • John in the courtyard of Weaver Clinic.

  • Kenny sitting near his house

  • 'Tatoos that have a meaning to me' - Lindsey

  • Lindsey

  • Rodney is particularly attached to a pig called Ruby.

  • Wayne in the garden of his current flat in Bristol

  • Wayne took an ironing board to the park, heaped it with rubbish and set fire to it.

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