Gary would describe himself as having had a residential home institutional upbringing, having been raised and lived in a residential care home with 22 people with learning disabilities since the age of 13-30, living to the rotas of the home, having his meals cooked by the home chef, having tags in the back of his clothes so his laundry was returned to him (sometimes unsuccessfully!) and having to be back for sleep-in duties every night.
It was only when Gary got a home of his own that he realised what he was doing to people. This gave Gary the insight and impetus to make big changes to the lives of the people he supported. This was a light bulb moment – everyone needs their own front door!
He closed the care home in 1996 and supported everyone to move into homes of their own, and has continued to support people through his new organisation NewKey to start having a real life and real community engagement.
Gary has partnered his organisation with a small housing charity The Cameron Trust, who are working to redefine the concept ‘charity’ and provide real affordable housing for people with learning disabilities at core rent with no deposits and no strings. Long live real charity!
Gary now spends time talking about his journey and inspiring others to make the same changes for the people they support.
Gary is also Chair for the South West Skills for Care and is starting to make changes with them to the way they think and provide training for providers and agencies because he is dyslexic himself and knows the barriers that paperwork and systems present to people.
Gary lives in Totnes in Devon and owns a successful bar/restaurant. He understands that quality is important to success. He enjoys socialising there, eating good food and travelling the world when he has the time!