Letter: Labels for the handicapped

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report on whether the charity Mencap should change its name (20 July) is a sad commentary on the futility of the argument about the correct way to describe people whose handicap is principally a mental one.

So the doctrinal purists believe that 'learning disability' or 'difficulty' have less stigma attached to them, do they? When will the professionals learn that it is not what we call people that matters so much, but how we behave towards them. Sympathy and care are much more to be found in behaviour and actions than merely in words.

Since the terminology changed, there is a little that we have seen change in the quality of services and provision for our daughter, who is mentally handicapped. Our local authority produces lots of reports and surveys, but when it comes to the crunch the answer is always the same - there is no money.

Believe me, getting the name right is no substitute for providing resources. Let Mencap and the professionals and managers stop their irrelevant arguments about politically correct nomenclature and work together to achieve resources.

A change of terminology will not allow my wife and I, in a few years' time, to die in peace and with confidence that our daughter, now in her thirties, will have a secure and happy future. That will come only if society at large, with government, central and local, and the professionals, decide that the sons and daughters of so many citizens need far more help than their families can give them, and provide at least some of it.

Yours faithfully,




20 July