‘Hospital was like prison’

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

    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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