It’s hard enough writing an annual review which covers a single year – what to put in and what to leave out, and how best to bring to life the breadth of support we provide.

But this year’s review – which you can now view online - was even more of a challenge as 2013 marks our 40th anniversary.

We wanted to use the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the progress we have made over four decades, as well as to recognise how much more will need to be done over the next 40 years.

A lot has happened in 40 years, as you might expect. For United Response, the years have seen us grow from a tiny charity operating one house in West Sussex into one of the country’s largest social care providers. Where once we supported a few people with learning disabilities we now support thousands of people across the disability spectrum and beyond, including people with mental health needs, autism and physical disability.

Much more importantly, we have seen major strides forward for disabled people, particularly people with learning disabilities. Where once most people we support were told they couldn’t live in their own homes, have a job, get married, vote or live a normal life, now many are doing all of these things.

But there is still so much more to do. There are still profound challenges facing disabled people, such as poverty, bullying or a lack of understanding from the general public. Many are also understandably concerned about the impact of welfare reform, and fear financial hardship. We want to use our 40th anniversary to start to change that.

So, in January we launched Easy News, which we believe is the first accessible newspaper for people with learning disabilities. Last month saw the launch of our “Postcards from the Edges” project which will run throughout the year. Postcards from the Edges is a creative project which aims to give a voice and a platform to anyone who cares about disability issues. Participants simply fill a blank postcard with drawings, photographs or words which express their views or tell the world something about their lives. We hope as many people as possible will spread the word and get involved – you can order a pack by emailing [email protected] or make a postcard at our dedicated new website,

Moving forward, we will of course continue to campaign with and on behalf of the people we support until the rights and choices that others may take for granted are a reality for all.

If you’d like to find out more about what we’ve been up to over the past year click here to view our anniversary review online. We hope you enjoy it or find it thought provoking.

Diane Lightfoot, director of communications & fundraising.