Carl PollCarl Poll, a leading social justice and learning disability rights campaigner, has died after an illness.

Poll started his working life as a language teacher, printer and typesetter, but his life changed course in the late 1980s when developed the idea for a radical housing support model for people with learning disabilities, KeyRing Living Support Networks.

KeyRing’s idea was revolutionary at the time: that nine people, who might otherwise be in residential care, could live in their own house in the community, supported by a volunteer who offered support and helped them to build self-reliance, mutual support and community connections. 

By 2010, there were more than 1,000 KeyRing members living in their own homes in nearly 60 local authority areas.

Poll led KeyRing until 2003 when he joined In Control to work as a project consultant on three of the initial pilots. After this he was In Control’s director of communications from 2005-2008 and was responsible, with Henry Iles, for the creation of the In Control brand and publications strategy.

He was also passionate about the meaning of citizenship for marginalised people. He contributed to and edited a number of publications on this including In Community: practical lessons in supporting isolated people to be part of community (HSA Press, 2009).

He was also a big advocate of the importance of effective communication through clear and concise information and helped to develop easy read.

Poll was also a founder member of the Campaign for a Fair Society in 2010. He contributed to the production of the Campaign’s manifesto and managed its website and newsletter for two years, only relinquishing these responsibilities a few months ago.

Tributes to Poll have flooded in since his death. Dr Simon Duffy, director of social justice think-tank the Centre for Welfare Reform, who knew Poll for more than 20 years, said: “Carl was a hero - but a hero with no interest in vanity, ego or greed.

“Carl always brought balance. When people were talking about need he’d point to capacity. When people were talking about services he’d point to community. When people were talking about money he’d point to relationships.”

Alicia Wood, chief executive of the Housing & Support Alliance, added: “He was an inspirational leader, with a clear and uncompromising view that people with learning disabilities can and should lead equal and ordinary lives. He did more than talk about this though, he made it happen through founding Keyring and through the direct support he gave people with learning disabilities who were his friends. He was one of the few people in our field that lived what he believes.”

His funeral will be held on Wednesday, June 12 at Honor Oak Crematorium in Forest Hill, London, at 1.45 pm. Everyone who knew Poll is welcome to attend.

More tributes to Poll can be viewed on the Centre for Welfare Reform’s website.

Thanks to Dr Simon Duffy and the Centre for Welfare Reform for the biographical information.