Furzey Gardens’ award-winning show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show underlines once again what people with learning disabilities can do, if they are given the right funding and support.
For those with green fingers, last week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show was a highlight of the year. The annual show attracts visitors from around the globe, as well as prime-time television coverage. Gardeners and gardening firms from all over the world compete for a coveted Gold award for their show gardens.
But one particular garden took my interest: Furzey Gardens’ gold medal-winning effort. While the garden was designed by commercial garden designer and TV presenter Chris Beardshaw, it was people with learning disabilities at Furzey Gardens – a charity-run training scheme – that were instrumental in putting the garden together. The team were involved in every stage, including planning, propagating plants and building the garden.
Furzey Gardens Foundation Trust chairman, the Reverend Tim Selwood, summed things up eloquently: “Our gold medal is a great honour for our whole team who have worked so hard to show what can be achieved by people with learning disabilities, provided they have proper support and funding.”
He’s right. Once again, this award – the pinnacle for gardeners – shows that people with learning disabilities can do anything they want to, given the chance.
But then anyone who cares for, or works with, people with learning disabilities will no doubt say the same thing. Furzey Garden is just the latest example.
The key words though are ‘chance’, ‘support’ and ‘funding’ – all of which are in increasingly short supply. A recent report by Mencap revealed that a quarter of people with learning disabilities currently only spend an hour a day outside of their homes, thanks to cuts to day services. Also, statistics from the Improving Health and Lives initiative revealed that in 2010/11 only 6.6% of adults with a learning disability were in some form of paid employment, with the majority of those in part-time roles.
Sadly, it seems that the current economic gloom is affecting people with learning disabilities’ chances to learn new skills or to get a job.
This is a shame because, as the team at Furzey Gardens demonstrates, there are some talented people with learning disabilities out there who could bring a lot to an employer, but, in the current circumstances, we could see their potential go to waste.
Everyone – employers, service providers, government, local authorities etc – need to remember this: give someone with learning disabilities a chance, some support and proper funding, and they can truly blossom.