Patrick Slater, former trustee of Mencap

Shortly before his death last year, the former Mencap trustee talked to Patricio Chile about his 15 years on the charity's board

My family had no support for the first four or five years after my son Malcolm was born with Down's Syndrome. I first came across West Berkshire Mencap by chance when we took Malcolm to the hospital. We were quite lucky - with the charity's help, he made significant progress. I became involved with the organisation in various ways, eventually becoming president of West Berkshire Mencap and a trustee of the Royal Mencap Society, a role I held for 15 years.

The organisation has grown since I discovered it, but it has always been short of money. Today it cares for between 4,000 and 5,000 people. To help with Mencap's funding, I chaired the finance committee for three years. The financial situation for charities in the UK is not always good, especially compared with the US, where charities receive more donations and government subsidies. In future, I hope to see more recognition of professions in the sector. Charities have the same needs as corporations and are run just like them, only without profit.

I stood down as a trustee this month. At 64, you have to scale down your activities. Besides Mencap, I have been active in various other local voluntary projects in Berkshire, with which I have also become less involved recently.

In November I became one of the first people to receive honorary life membership of the Royal Mencap Society, an accolade created as a way of recognising service to the organisation. There isn't a specific role for the person honoured - just the distinction. It was very unexpected when I received the OBE in 1999 for my work with Mencap - I owe it to the people who worked around me. Despite these honours, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Patrick Slater MBE, a tireless champion of people with a learning disability, was involved with Mencap at a national and local level for over 25 years. He died in November 2008.

- Interview by Patricio Chile.

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