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Our History

Royal Mencap

It all began in 1946...


  • In 1946 Judy Fryd, a mother of a child with a learning disability, formed 'The National Association of Parents of Backward Children' - which later became Mencap.

  • She wrote to 'Nursery World' magazine inviting other parents to contact her. Many wrote back to Judy expressing their anger and sorrow at the lack of services for their children.

Saffron Walden Mencap Society History..... take a look at how we started and how far we have come....

60 years ago...... A group of young mothers with children of junior school age, who had learning disabilities.  At that time, Mencap was not recognised by the Statutory Authorities, meaning there was no funding available for such a project. However, the group applied for, and were successful in their application to the very first Children in Need, and the Saffron Walden Playgroup and Holiday Club benefitted from a £1,000 donation.

Today, ‘Royal Mencap’ is recognised as one of the leading organisations in campaigning, improving, and promoting the needs of people with learning disabilities. Saffron Walden Mencap is a small charity affiliated to Royal Mencap who, whilst supporting us with invaluable resources and advice, do not provide any financial support.  Saffron Walden Mencap Society raises money through fundraising activities, grants, donations, and subscriptions.

Many of the founders of Saffron Walden Mencap Society also formed the original Committee. Apart from providing activities for their children, they also built a valuable network of support with each other. Some of those parents, including our President, remain on the Committee today. They also continue to meet at a monthly Carers group which is open to all parents and carers of current members.


As the Founders children moved into adulthood, Saffron Walden Mencap Society began to provide opportunities and activities for adults with learning disabilities.




Under the direction of Saffron Walden Mencap Society’s Chairman, Patrick Draper, the Side by Side Club was born. The club, which welcomes over 18s with a learning disability meets weekly at the Salvation Army Hall in Saffron Walden. Led by a coordinator and deputy and assisted by a wonderful group of volunteers, members engage in a fantastic range of activities, such as bingo, karaoke, crafts and fish and chip suppers, or, they can just ‘hang out’ with each other!

Every year, several special events are planned, including discos, theatre and canal trips and a Christmas meal. Side by Side Club has become enormously popular with individuals with learning disabilities in the Saffron Walden area, and the membership of the Society currently stands at more than seventy.



Saffron Walden Mencap Society have recently been working together, with the local community, to identify the need for additional services for local individuals with learning disabilities. The 16-25 age group, which bridges the gap between children’s and adult’s services, was the area where both individuals and parents felt there was the greatest immediate need. To address this, Saffron Walden Mencap Society been working towards starting a pilot project called Go With Our Flow. The scheme will operate on Friday evenings, providing planned bespoke activities for individuals and/or small groups. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, it had to be put on hold. 


Individuals who would usually attend Saffron Walden Mencap Society’s clubs and activities, are some of the most vulnerable in our society and can so easily become socially isolated. During this year, where possible. members kept in contact by Zoom meetings, some very special ‘socially distanced’ picnics during the Summer, on Facebook, and by sending messages of support.


In 2021, Saffron Walden Mencap Society linked up with the Dig-It charity for a new venture allowing people with a disability to learn a new life skill.


Mencap Dig-It Club meets every Wednesday morning at ‘Dig-it’ at Crocus Fields, in Saffron Walden. The team leader is Emma, who moved to the area a few months ago from London and members are supported by Jacquie and Steve.  Emma teaches the service users about horticulture: how to grow flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs. Each week, we are able to take some of the produce home.


Saffron Walden Mencap Society is really looking forward to what this year might bring!

Go With Our Flow, which was due to be launched in early 2020, was launched on Friday the 22nd of April 2022 and has begun to regularly hold group sessions and trips out in the community.

In 2022, we were be able to meet more regularly with members, friends and volunteers and resume all the wonderful activities and events that we have enjoyed organising and taking part in over recent years.

Present day

Saffron Walden Mencap Society continues to grow with new members joining regularly and we continue to pursue links within the local community. 

The human spirit is one of ability, perseverance and courage that no disability can steal away......

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