Having some serious ‘what’s the point of a lot of academic research (my own right up there with a few others) thoughts at the mo, particularly given the wealth of research around learning disability provision. We sort of know so much in many ways and yet so little has changed for learning disabled people in the UK. Yes, there are pockets of good and brilliant stuff (anecdotally, largely where some cracking person or group of people have got together to just do something.) But overall, it’s pretty crap or worse.
Yesterday, this was tweeted by Chris Hatton…
Whoa. Really? Really???
Half a £billion a year? For being warehoused, out of sight, on the edge of towns. Restrained, subject to abuse or other acts of violence and neglected. Half a billion???
The Winterbourne Concordat (sigh) aimed to get people pretty much out of these hell holes by June 1st. The outrage generated by the original Panorama expose of abuse has clearly lost any welly. People have moved on, learning disability really ain’t sexy and no one with any influence is prepared to do anything. (I’m losing count of the people who mention how well we’ve done to get the publicity/momentum we have on #107days… It’s like trying to crawl out of a 30 metre deep mud pit with some cocktail sticks and a cotton reel).
Today Rich and I had a ten minute revisiting what happened to LB (various versions of this happen several or more times a day… typically underpinned by despair, disbelief, rage, intense sadness and inevitably tears). Today we focused on the consultants involved who, in their wisdom, decided to ignore, pretend or insist that LB didn’t have ‘real’ epilepsy and wasn’t having increasing seizure activity.
(This reminds me of a conversation with someone who said (after LB’s death) that she worked with children with epilepsy who had “proper seizures”.) Eh? LB was ‘medically’, ‘officially’, and about as blinking properly as you can be, diagnosed with epilepsy. (Eventually). Numerous people, us, his teachers, paramedics and A&E staff witnessed him having seizures. I’ve never seen anyone having a seizure before and I saw him having various types of seizure include tonic clonic which really is in your face seizure activity. He had epilepsy.
His sensitivity to changing medication was also known and recorded. The consultants at the unit were told that he was having increasing seizure activity, by people who knew him better than anyone. And yet they sat in a meeting two weeks before he drowned in the bath and decided he wasn’t.
In a unit costing around £3500 a week.
In some ways the cost is completely irrelevant. We’re talking about the life of a young dude who had only just nudged into ‘adulthood’. But at the same time, the enormous cost of these places contrasted to what’s actually delivered speaks volumes about the ambivalence and (maybe fear?) attached to people like LB. The cost of keeping em penned away from the rest of us is paid. Seemingly indefinitely. Seemingly without question. Even when the extent of the atrocities that happen in these spaces are known about.
And any aspect of their lives, including clear, pretty straightforward medical issues can be ignored. The ‘learning disability’ trumps all.
The disability (studies) movement in the UK has been caught in circular discussions/debates/disagreements and revisiting distinctions between social and medical models of disability for years now. Pretty tedious and dusty really. But what’s astonishing, and illuminating, is that the medical profession denied LB the right to be epileptic. They denied him his medical label.
They denied him his right to be epileptic. Because they couldn’t see beyond his ‘difference’. And this, ultimately, denied him his right to life.
Anyone got a copy of the Hippocratic Oath handy?