Disability is no obstacle to a man’s driving ambition

It started as an isolation hospital – now its whole urpose is against solation. The Papworth Settlement began in 1917 as a special village for people suffering from TB. Now, 90 years on, the Papworth Trust works to stop disabled people being isolated.

It started as an isolation hospital - now its whole urpose is against solation.

"The Papworth Settlement" began in 1917 as a special village for people suffering from TB. Now, 90 years on, the Papworth Trust works to stop disabled people being isolated. ANGELA SINGER reports on wheels that have gone almost full circle.

BRUCE Wall epitomises exactly what the Papworth Trust is about.

When Saxongate, won an award it was Bruce - a tetraplegic - who drove himself 80 miles to Birmingham to collect it.

Saxongate is a national first, a pioneering living scheme for able-bodied and disabled people side by side in Huntingdon town centre.

The recognition was from the National Housing Federation and Bruce was interviewed in The Guardian.

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Fourteen years ago, Bruce was a company director with three teenage children and a passion for roller skating, go-karting and Formula One.

His world stopped on July 2, 1993. The damage was done in seconds.

He was riding pillion with his son James, 18, driving when their motorbike skidded on a patch of diesel into the path on an on-coming car.

James died and Bruce, then aged 48, was in hospital for over a year and a half. Now he is in a wheel-chair, his right leg has been amputated below the knee and he has partial use of one arm.

He says: "It had been a beautiful summer's day and evening, the temperature was in the 80s. It was such perfect biking weather."

Bruce, who was divorced, was travelling to have dinner with his former in-laws, in Essex and James was going to see friends in Clacton.

The accident was in Great Bentley. Bruce says the last thing the two said to each other was "I love you" they had given each other a hug in the hall before they left. They had been very close. Bruce's flat is full of go-karting trophies they had won together.

When they told him in the hospital that James had died, he says he almost already knew "because no one had spoken to me about him."

Bruce suffered such depression that he tried to kill himself.

"When I came out of hospital, I could walk round the house with a Zimmer frame and I could climb the stairs.

"However, because of nerve injuries, my condition deteriorated and I had to live downstairs, which was horrible, with no shower and no bathroom.

"I got so depressed I took an overdose rather than be a burden on my family.

"It didn't work. I took 25 tablets and slept for 18 hours. I got told off by my two daughters and my mother, who at 82 still thought I was her little boy.

"I was terribly angry about everything. I was angry that James had died and that I was in a wheelchair, I had had a good job, I had enjoyed life. It just seemed so unfair."

How did he get over his anger?

"I don't know that I have.

"The worst thing was having all these different women from the care service coming in to get me up and put me to bed and feeling so exposed - and having to go to bed at 9.30pm."

However, getting told off was a shot in the arm, he says and he was referred to Papworth.

"At home, I couldn't get out unless somebody took me but at Papworth, I had a room 12 foot square and a shared kitchen and bathroom.

"It was on the ground floor, so I could get out and pop round the village. I also found out that I could drive. No one had told me what I might be able to do.

"Suddenly I found there was a community of people with disabilities who went out and about and did things for themselves. It was a

complete eye-opener. I went to Rutland Water and found out about Sailability and that there was a club at Grafham. I went there with a girl who could drive and, because I used to be a windsurfer, I could sail."

A former director and shareholder of a flooring company in Cambridge with a turnover of over £2million, he sold his shares back to the business and went to a driving assessment centre.

He now has a specially adapted Ford Transit minibus. The seats have been taken out, and he drives his wheelchair into the back of it and operates adapted controls. "It gives me my freedom."

Papworth also gave him the chance to use his skills to work in the computer industry until he retired in 1999.

In January, he moved into his brand new flat in Temple Place, part of the Saxongate development.

It has devices such as a kitchen sink that can be raised and lowered and doors, windows and curtains that open and close at the touch of a button.

He is in easy reach of town and the best thing he says is that the flat has two bedrooms so his daughters and grandchildren can stay.

Bruce has the rather clumsy title of service user trustee, which means he is part of the think-tank on Papworth's future.

"The only issue I have is the decision to stop providing transport.

"We had a bus. That's been replaced with two minibuses but they are thinking of stopping that and it's quite upsetting.

"The bus used to take people to Huntingdon and Cambridge and on days out to Great Yarmouth.

"For a lot of people that was their only way of getting out, especially in all weathers. A lot of us are very concerned about it."

But he says that is the only concern.

"Equality, Choice and Independence is a good slogan. I was really low and they picked me up, put me back on my wheels and set me on my way."

THE Papworth Village Settlement was set up in 1917 by Dr Pendrill Varrier-Jones.

He had a temporary job as TB officer and founded the Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony after seeing that people recovered in the country air but got ill again when they returned to the city.

His idea was to create not just a hospital or a rehabilitation centre, but a whole community.

The colony began in Bourn but he was well-connected enough to persuade friends to buy Papworth Hall for £6,000 and the project moved to Papworth Everard. With the hall went most of the land in the parish.

When they outgrew the hall, a new hospital was built as well as new homes for the TB patients and their families. In the 1930s,

factories were added so patients who were well enough could work.

Dr (later Sir) Varrier Jones, born in 1883, died suddenly, aged 58 in 1941.

However, the Papworth settlement went from strength to strength and the industries became a great financial success and expanded over the years under the trade-mark Pendragon.

Coach building started in 1947, making The Green Goddess fire trucks and other vehicles for customers including BT, Royal Mail, Parcelforce, St John Ambulance and the NHS ambulance trusts.

Other lines included luxury luggage,

carpentry, cabinets, leatherwork and printing.

In 1957, by which time penicillin had pretty much conquered TB, people with a wide range of disabilities started to settle at Papworth, The hospital became NHS in 1948.

The Papworth Trust, created in 1963, now helps over 10,000 a year across the Eastern region.

The sheltered workshops have been sold, and the move is away from residential homes and towards independence.

The byword now is integration. Saxongate in Huntingdon, cost £3million to build and has 24 wheelchair accessible flats in a complex with 21 other apartments for sale to the general public.

Features in the community teaching rooms include a talking microwave and a height adjustable white board.


The trust has:

# 200 staff and volunteers

# Provides over 600 homes - two thirds of which are wheelchair accessible

# Helps 2,500 people each year obtain and retain jobs

# Delivers services across eight centres in the East of England

# Spends £10 million every year

Funding is from:

# Rents of the properties.

# Providing day care services for disabled people, paid for by local authorities.

# Providing providing JobCentrePlus a jobs referral service for people with disabilities, paid for by the Government.

# The rest (15 per cent) is from fundraising.

"Just because a person has a disability doesn't mean they can't participate like anyone else- ADRIAN Bagg, Papworth Trust Chief Executive

ADRIAN Bagg is has been chief executive of The Papworth Trust since September 2006. He was previously vice president of the shipping company Maersk and before that worked for companies including Diageo (owners of Guinness), Mercury One-2-One, Honeywell and Amersham.

Now 45, he says he realised that there was more to life than making money for shareholders.

"I had spent 20 years on planes."

His wife had a similar life-change. She went left a high-powered job in the wine industry to teaching maths in secondary school. They have two sons, aged 15 and 13 and live in Hertfordshire.

He knows the central place work takes in a person's life. "Just because a person has a disability doesn't mean they can't participate like anyone else.

"They should be able to choose where they want to work. It shouldn't be a choice made for them."

Adjustments in the workspace don't always have to cost money, he says.

"In one case someone just wanted to face the corridor rather than have their back to it. They wanted to be able to see people coming."

"We are looking towards what we will celebrate when we are 100 years old, what we want to do in the next 10 years.

"There will be more Saxongates. We want to provide transition services for young disabled people, places where they can live for two years and learn how to live independently before they have a place of their own.

"We want to extend residential care, offering personal support so that individuals can choose what they want, when they want, when to have their washing done, which meals they want cooked for them.

"And we want to continue to help people into jobs.

"We are the best in the UK at vocational rehabilitation - 90 per cent of the people we help get back into work.