Coronavirus: How to get Help

Find coronavirus help in your local area from the UK Government.

The Brain Charity can also help anyone with a neurological condition, their family and carers at this time.

If you need help, please get in touch: Email The Brain Charity or call us free on 0800 008 6417 (Monday-Friday: 9am-4.30pm)

Official opening of the charity in 1993 L-R: HRH The Duke of Gloucester, Sir Paul Girolami and Maureen Kelly.

Maureen Kelly was the person who managed the project of bringing the original version of The Brain Charity into being (or the Glaxo Neurological Centre as it was known then). She ran the centre for 21 years and shares some of her memories from the early days with us.

Glaxo Holdings PLC had put out an offer to the Department of Health in London to make a donation of 1 million pounds to fund an innovative project that complemented the work of the NHS. Dr Ian Williams, who was the medical director of The Walton Centre at the time, had recognised the need for a ‘one stop shop’ to provide information to people with neurological conditions so he bid for the funding to create what was to become the Glaxo Centre. My role was then to bring his idea to life.

Official opening of the charity in 1993 L-R: HRH The Duke of Gloucester, Sir Paul Girolami and Maureen Kelly.

“One of the great things that happened was that we were able to bring individual charities dealing with neurological conditions together under one roof, not only physically but virtually too, to help those who had been diagnosed with neurological conditions,” explains Maureen..

“Up until that point, charities such as Alzheimer’s, MS, MND and stroke had all operated separately and very rarely worked together. Ian saw there was a need for charities to work more closely together as many neurological conditions had similar issues and difficulties and he felt that sharing information and best practices could be beneficial to not only those with neurological conditions but medical professionals too.

“The hope was that individuals with neurological conditions would use our services as a stepping stone to continue with their lives.”
Maureen had worked with the Alzheimer’s Society prior to coming on board with the Glaxo Centre, so she had lots of experience within the Third Sector. Initially there was only her and one other member of staff, with a third joining to help maintain the building a few months later.

Volunteers soon began to play a key role too: “When word got out about this unique organisation that was starting up, I had lots of calls from people with neurological conditions who wanted to help in some way. As they knew from a personal view point what others would be going through, it seemed to make sense to bring these people in as volunteers to help others. There were a dozen or so volunteers in the beginning who did things like meet and greet, staff the library, and serve tea and coffee.”

The building was set up to help in two specific areas, it would serve as an information centre for people diagnosed with a neurological condition and as a place to hold conferences and training sessions for medical professionals who worked in the field of neurology.

“People would telephone, write or drop in to see us for help back when we first opened, which seems so quaint now, but the internet was in its infancy and there wasn’t any other way to get in touch. We were one of the first charities to have its own website, we were so progressive that we actually allowed other charities to have a page about themselves on it as they didn’t yet have websites of their own. We had two computers at the time and we felt very sophisticated!”

“The hope was that individuals with neurological conditions would use our services as a stepping stone to continue with their lives.”

Demand for other services started to become apparent, so an employment officer was brought on board to run the ‘Working Life Project’. The aim of the project was to remove any barriers that would prevent people getting back into employment, or help them stay in their existing employment, not only by helping the individual but the employer too.

A carers service followed, along with education events for GPs and other professionals to educate them about day to day life with neurological conditions. Arts based projects were put together by service users to try to explain the conditions that they were living with in an easily accessible way and greater links with other charities were established through the Neurological Alliance.

The organisation went from strength to strength changing its name in 2006 to Neurosupport and then becoming The Brain Charity in 2015. “Considering the charity only had a life expectancy of 3 years when it was set up it’s remarkable that it’s still going strong 25 years later. I’m very proud to have been part of its success - thousands of people have been helped over the years and Ian Williams’ vision continues to live on.”

A big thank you to Maureen for taking time to share her memories with us.