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How Phab started and where we are now

The idea of Phab was born during a National Association of Youth Clubs holiday conference held in 1957 at Avon Tyrrell outdoor activity centre in the New Forest.  The conference involved young people aged between 15 and 18 and included a lone, severely disabled young man called Terry Rolfe who simply asked for “opportunity, not pity for disabled people” and that those who were disabled should be given a chance to share in a programme of exciting activities on equal terms with non-disabled people.  This heartfelt request led to the foundation of Phab, first as part of the National Association of Youth Clubs and, from 1974, as an independent charity with the late Lord Snowdon as our Patron.

From those early days, Phab benefited enormously from the active help and support of the late Lord Morris of Manchester, at the time Alf Morris MP for Manchester Wythenshawe (from 1964 to 1997) whose work led to the first disability rights legislation, 1970’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and who became the UK's first minister for the disabled in 1974.

During the 1960’s “Fun and Happiness Weekends” involved both people with and without disabilities having great fun, learning and growing together, whilst at the same time Phab Clubs were starting to develop across the country, set up by local communities and volunteers.

Today Phab continues that founding ethos of bringing together people of all abilities on equal terms to make more of life together - breaking down community barriers, reducing social isolation, and creating opportunities for disabled people to enjoy the same activities and challenges as non-disabled people, side by side: 

  • The Phab Club network across England and Wales is now around 150 strong, enabling 8,000 children, young people and adults, with and without disabilities to enjoy social activities and friendship together.
  • The early “Fun and Happiness Weekends” have grown into an annual programme of exciting and challenging Inclusive Living Experience Residential Projects at fully accessible outdoor activity centres for around 140 disabled or disadvantaged children and young people each year, supported by 115 Phab volunteers and carers, helping them to gain practical, personal and social skills and increase their self-esteem, confidence and independence - and the now fully accessible outdoor activity Centre at Avon Tyrrell in the New Forest still serves as one of our key venues, along with Bendrigg Lodge in the Lake District.

Our President today is the well-known and much loved actress, Anita Dobson.   And the Chairman, John Corless, and all the Trustees were delighted and honoured that Baroness Campbell of Surbiton DBE has also joined Phab as a Vice President.  

I have so many friends at Phab, I feel safe, I feel equal, and I can be myself and have fun.

Phab has given me a huge part of my life back, has helped me adapt to my new situation and shown me what there is to still achieve.

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