This film is part of Free

Back to the Community

Local authorities trial the Thatcher government’s new ‘care in the community’ initiative.

Documentary 1986 29 mins


A fascinating insight into life for learning disabled people in 1980s Britain, as the long-debated ‘care in the community’ initiative is implemented under the Thatcher government. The case studies here, in Bolton and Aylesbury, are framed in a largely positive light, as local authorities struggle with the legacy of inhumane Victorian institutions. The enjoyment some patients find in their new sense of independence is genuinely moving, yet it’s clear deinstitutionalisation was a slow and fraught process. More troubling are the references to patients as ‘clients’, foreshadowing controversies the policy became increasingly mired in.

This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.