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Linkage was a “dream” given substance in the 1970s by a small group of committed and lay people which led to the development of a new and creative charity for young people with learning difficulties. Central to this development was Dave Sampson, who was able to take the dream and translate it into reality. The charity was set up on 14th January 1976.
As founding co-director, with Don MacKenzie, and subsequently managing director, Dave’s immense drive, vision, entrepreneurial flair and dedication enabled Linkage to develop rapidly into an organisation serving not only local but national needs among learning disabled young people and their families.
Following a short-lived experiment with a workshop in Skegness, emphasis in the early years was on the development of a specialist FE college. An initial entry of four students in 1979 grew quickly, with numbers growing in excess of 200 spread over three different sites: Toynton All Saints near Spilsby which opened in 1979, Weelsby Hall in Grimsby (1982), and the then Sampson Campus in Lincoln which opened in 1999.
During the 1980s, a recognition of the needs of learning disabled people and their families for longer-term residential support – beyond college – led to the development by Linkage of a network of residential care homes. This was established under the leadership of Rex Richardson, who was also a Linkage founder member. The Sleight Centre was opened on the Weelsby Estate in 1986, with a network of care homes following from 1992 including Scremby Grange which was opened in 1994, accommodating a population of around 100 residents.
Under the guidance of the trustees and the chairmanship of George Bateman, the dream continued with plans from 2000 onwards to complement existing education and care services with a new range of employment services including the opening of Linkage Green, a flagship bowling green and café in Mablethorpe, and the opportunity for some students to move from residential care to independent living and paid work.
In 2005, the Weelsby campus saw the expansion of education services in Grimsby with the opening of the MacKenzie Building, which was given royal seal of approval by Princess Anne in 2007.
Linkage bought land in 2009/2010 at Boultham Park in Lincoln to create supporting living accommodation, and to develop an education centre, horticulture centre and a café/shop. The accommodation – 10 bungalows and six flats – was officially named Rookery Court and opened in 2012.
A new Chief Executive was appointed to lead Linkage in 2012. Ges Roulstone joined the charity.
2013: Linkage’s partnership with the City of Lincoln Council was awarded £2.7 million in grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund Parks for People for the multi-million pound restoration of Boultham Park and the creation of the education centre, retail outlet and greenhouse.
A children and families worker was appointed to start working with younger clientele, initially based in Leicester.
2014: Work started on a new Linkage campus development at South Staffs College in July, while in August, Linkage signalled work on a new annexe to the MacKenzie Building at the Weelsby Campus in Grimsby to cater for physically disabled people with learning difficulties.
The Roundel Café in Skegness was officially opened.
Sampson House was demolished to make way for a modern housing development at Skellingthorpe Road in Lincoln, in association with the Waterloo Housing Group.
Keen to maximise the opportunities for a new Adult Skills service in Lincoln, Linkage leased a building in the Doddington Road area, at Checkpoint Court, and opened the service in 2014.
A new competition for schools was launched in 2015 – Linkage ArtBeat gave a new opportunity for art and photography students to win prizes for their creative work.
The keys to Sampson House in Lincoln were handed over in 2015 to the first resident, Philip Williams, by Waterloo.
2016 – Linkage’s 40th anniversary year – began with a new chief executive. Valerie Waby succeeded Ges Roulstone who retired.