‘Hospital was like prison’

Mabel Cooper spoke to delegates about the importance of giving
people with learning difficulties the right to choose where they

Cooper, who has learning difficulties, spent 25 years in St
Lawrence’s Hospital in Caterham, Surrey, with 4,000 other people
with learning difficulties, but now lives in a registered home with
three others and a carer.

Comparing her time in the long-stay hospital to a prison
sentence, she said: “If you spoke then you would get into trouble
so I didn’t speak. I would only say no, and sometimes that would
mean no, because it was a protest.”

Since leaving the hospital six years ago, Cooper has joined
numerous self-advocacy groups and attends a day centre four days a
week. She told delegates she loved having the freedom to go
wherever, and say whatever, she likes. “I enjoy talking, I never
shut up,” she said.

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