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How the Chelsea Flower Show embraced disabilities

October 23, 2012

This is a guest post by Jason Tucker.

As possibly the most well-known horticultural show in the world, the Chelsea Flower Show has always brought in a very strong crowd since its conception in 1913. Each year there are around 157,000 attendees, all clamouring to feast their eyes on the best and brightest displays.


This year saw something extra special, as the top prize went to the Furzey garden display – the only display to be created by gardeners with learning disabilities. Created at a cost of just £60,000 – a small amount in proportion to the cost of normal displays – the Furzey display was backed by their own fundraising efforts and the skill of the gardeners came down to the help they receive as part of their residential care in Minstead, in the New Forest.


Designer of the exhibit, Chris Beardshaw, was quoted as saying: “It’s so important that the skills of the people who have been building this garden are recognised and celebrated.”


And that’s a sentiment that is absolutely echoed by all the agencies and support services out there that exist for those with learning disabilities.


The motto of the Minstead Training Project is ‘Preparing adults with learning disabilities for greater independence’ – a key feature within other support services and networks around the country. Only by equipping families and individuals with learning disabilities with the skills and confidences to live their own lives, can they achieve a higher, and hopefully happier, quality of lifestyle.


Other organisations, like United Response, hold this core value too. They do their best to assist individuals with learning disabilities in finding places through a variety of work schemes, as well as housing associations, in order to give them a true sense of independence.


The win at the flower show is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with the right support at hand. Reverend Tim Selwood, from Furzey Gardens, said it best by declaring: “They can be up there with the best of them.”


Of course with recent cuts in funding to schemes such as the Minstead Training Project, it’s important to make this point as loudly and as clearly as possible. There have been so many success stories for those with learning disabilities. It should have local authorities and the government turning quickly to offer more funding.


We can only hope that the RHS Chelsea win, being on such a national stage, might help point the spotlight in the right direction, and rally more support for the individuals and families currently dealing with learning disabilities in their lives.

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