chapter  2
20 Pages

‘We’re being treated as second-class citizens’

Community, family and learning disability activists campaigning for dignity in death
WithNigel Ingham

Between the mid-1980s and the end of the century, most long-stay hospitals in England closed as part of the drive towards community care. The existence of Calderstones as a large long-stay National Health Service (NHS) hospital for people with learning disabilities effectively ended in 2000. Although right to honour the war dead, their burial ground, with its memorial and annual remembrance service, contrasts drastically with the limited acknowledgement afforded to those who died as institutional ‘patients’. The broader campaign around the former Calderstones Hospital cemetery is characterized by its multi-voiced nature, yet, with one notable exception, at the heart has always been a small number of local activists. Campaigners were seriously worried about the impact of this intrusion, with the potential to cause disturbance to those interred. For people with learning difficulties, their treatment as ‘second-class citizens’ is the fundamental principle awakened by the critical state of the former Calderstones Cemetery.