How Social Enterprises reshaped how we view Disability

The Young Royals join the celebrations on World Mental Health Day, Photo Courtesy of Getty

This is our final blog in a series of blogs celebrating Social Saturday, and since this year’s Social Saturday coincided with World Mental Health Day we will also pay tribute to mental health patients in the UK who had to go through an awful lot, through a trip to 19th century England.

World Mental Health Day is the annual global celebration of mental health education, awareness and advocacy. It is held annually on October 10, and each year the day focuses on a new topic which is affecting mental health patients in the UK, and this year the focal point of the day was “Dignity In Mental Health”.

The 19th century saw the Industrial Revolution which impacted on the attitude of society toward those who suffered from a physical or mental impairment, an attitude lacking in compassion and sound judgment.

People who suffered from any form of physical disability were regarded as a burden on society, it was believed that keeping them in their own homes would encourage laziness.Therefore, they were kept in workhouses in grim and uninhabitable conditions.

On the other hand, people who suffered from a mental impairment faced a fate which was by no means a lesser evil, they were segregated in purpose built Asylums in dire and inhumane conditions with no prospect of curability or discharge.

The 19th century saw an expansion in the building of asylums accompanied by the introduction of Psychiatry. However, it wasn’t practiced in a proper or ethical manner.

During this century (also known as the Asylum Era) more than 120 county pauper asylums were built hosting 100,000 idiots and lunatics compared to a few hundred people living nine small charitable asylums at the beginning of the century.

There was an urgent need for some form of intervention to relieve the disabled community. Efforts were made by charities, also social enterprises to help in improving the work and living conditions of disabled people.
The social enterprise we are about to discuss today is a branch of one of these charities first to intervene, it is also the first social enterprise in the UK.

Clarity is a registered charity and a social enterprise which has been employing, training and supporting blind people and people with other disabilities since 1854.

Clarity was founded by a blind lady, Elizabeth Gilbert, who realised that amid these worsening conditions, it was virtually impossible for a blind person to earn their own living. In response she set up a workshop to train blind people to make products to sell with the money reinvested into the business to pay the staff and create more jobs.

The Soap Co

The Soap Co became a member of the Clarity family four years ago. It is a social enterprise working with disabled people to provide the consumer with a quality product and the opportunity to provide a disadvantaged person with a career opportunity.

70% of their workforce is blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged and all the company profits go back into the business creating even more jobs.

The Soap Co. started as a small shop in the Lake District creating handmade soaps to provide employment for people with disabilities.Today they supply 50,000 customers and businesses with products, ranging from cruise ships to local councils and boutique hotels.

Last month Poached Creative paid a visit to The Soap Co. We also interviewed the manager and some of the workers, who all seemed in agreement that being part of soap co is impacting their lives and well-being positively.

One of those who we met is Darren Sapsford, before joining The Soap Co. Darren had lost both his parents and home, which led to a breakdown in his relationship and understandably a blow to his self-esteem.

He was looking for a way to rebuild his life when he was referred to The Soap Co. through the Job Centre.
Now he is Product Line Operative, his self-esteem is restored and now he is planning to carry on working with The Soap Co. while trying to become a support worker.

Denis is one of the many people who were helped by Soap Co and Clarity, who are transforming lives by the day.
The Soap Co. celebrated Social Saturday by encouraging everyone to make a positive social impact through promoting their new line which was released last month and is comprised of new range of soaps and lotions including Black Poppy & Wild Fig, White Tea & Citrus, using formulations which have outperformed other luxury brands in consumer testing.
Moreover, to mark Social Saturday the two heads of The Soap Co, Jason Norris, and Jeremy Robinson of Clarity took a long distance bike ride, visiting many social enterprises en route.

“Even though, I am 360 of miles away from Clarity whenever I go down there I always feel that I am part of Clarity, part of a bigger thing, a bigger vision- part of something that is achieving and moving forward. So yes, that is why I enjoyed it, enjoyed being part of clarity, definitely.”

Jason Peter Norris, manager at The Soap Co.- Keswick

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