Name: Adam Dodd, Minstead Trust CEO

One of my siblings, Paul, is profoundly physically and mentally disabled.

He was born two years after me in 1979 into an area where the local authority told my parents there was no support available to help them. My father was a naval officer and frequently at sea for long stretches, one of which coincided with Paul’s birth. For a long time he lacked the physical ability even to support the weight of his own head.

Without any support from the local authority, the demands on the family were ultimately too high and Paul was placed in the care system with foster parents. We were further advised not to visit or have contact with Paul, as his need for routine and clarity in his life was paramount. We were advised that to see him would be an affront to his wellbeing.

I therefore grew up from the age of two without Paul in my life. It was a source of great distress to me during my teenage years that I had so many opportunities which he (as I saw it) had been denied by his disabilities. And I was angry that he had simply been excised from my family because we hadn’t found access to the right support.

In 1994, when I was seventeen, I decided I wanted to see my long-lost brother. I tracked him down to a residential home in Devon and arranged a visit.

What I found there was a revelation. A team of dedicated, caring individuals who knew everything about Paul, who involved him in music, who helped him navigate a lively relationship with a girl, and who helped him to exercise. I discovered that my brother, like me, had become an enthusiastic pianist. He was fond of an occasional boogie at a local community centre disco. He lived in wonderful rural surroundings, in a lovely period property with sprawling gardens that clearly provided therapy and respite to the residents, just as Furzey Gardens does for those fortunate enough to know and visit it. I realised that in his own world, flourishing in the environment these dedicated people had created around him, Paul was a king.

I will never forget that day in the summer of 1994 when my eyes were opened to the care industry and the remarkable work that is happening quietly all the time to empower people of all abilities to live rich and fulfilling lives. Although it would be another 22 years before I would find Minstead Trust and Furzey Gardens, it was my brother Paul, his experiences and our challenges as a family that told me that I had to be part of ensuring the continued availability of excellent, life-changing care and support for disadvantage people.

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