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No Going Back

Authors: Tim Keilty and Kellie Woodley

Reviewed by: Simon Duffy

No Going Back documents the experiences of people who lived and worked at Prudhoe Hospital in Northumberland - one of the many institutions where people with learning difficulties were incarcerated during the twentieth century. At the heart of this book are vivid testimonies from those who look back and say - there must be no going back.

A book like this is badly needed today, for it certainly feels like some people want to go backwards.

Government cuts and government rhetoric has already begun to target disabled people. They seem to be suggesting that disabled people do not have real rights and that they should be grateful for the little they get. 

The myth that people were better off put away in institutions is still prevalent. Instead of giving people rights, power and control we see government trying to make people safe by inspections, regulations and bureaucracy. An approach that has never worked.

We are in danger of forgetting the harm done by institutions and by our failure to recognise the gifts and contribution of disabled people. This book is an excellent response to the moral imperative ‘not to forget’. Vivid human testimony is balanced with clear-headed analysis and the authors have been able to demonstrate the evil of institutionalisation without resort to preaching or blaming.

One of the leading thinkers of our time, John O'Brien writes:

Kellie and Tim give voice to institutional survivors in the context of a clear and compassionate account of the characteristics of a physical and social environment that made it easy for bad things to happen and hard for good things to happen. It is as important to attend to their thoughtful exploration of what they perceptively call “the grey” of institutional life as it is to celebrate the resilience and resistance of the survivors and their embrace of the rewards of ordinary community life. Careful consideration of their analysis of the ways that habits of control and stereotyped responses made it possible for the exploitative few to dominate the well intentioned many, will sensitise us to the more subtle ways that neglect of people’s full humanity can blight today’s efforts to assist people to live as full citizens.

If you want to remember why we must continue to fight for people's real rights to be citizens and why there can be no going back - then read this book. If you want to help other people - who perhaps think the call for community, inclusion or citizenship is just political correctness - then get them this book.

August 2014: please note that copies of the book have now sold out. However, you can read and download the free pdf of the book in your browser here.


The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

No Going Back - Forgotten Voices from Prudhoe Hospital © Tim Keilty and Kellie Woodley 2013.

Review: No Going Back © Simon Duffy 2013.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.

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