Continuing Week’s 6 discussion of whether we need another inquiry, a guest post from Katherine Runswick-Cole:
Last week, I nearly got the chance to ask Ed Milliband a question. Ed arrived at our shiny new university building, housing the faculties of Education and Social Care, to deliver a speech about the NHS. The atrium was filled to the brim with hundreds of students and staff keen to get a glimpse and, perhaps, to ask a question.
Ed spoke for about twenty minutes sounding more passionate and eloquent than he does on the telly, announcing more funding for nurses and trumpeting the Labour party’s support for the NHS. In the question and answer, I watched as Ed directed the mic around the room. As the mic moved closer towards me, I put my hand up only to watch the mic disappear from sight and along with it any chance of my asking a question.
So if I had had the opportunity to grab that mic, what would I have said? With the eyes of my colleagues upon me, and with the potential of making the six o’clock news if the question tripped Ed up, what should I ask?
Well, most people began their question with a personal story “My dad waited in A&E for six hours ….”, “My mother had a mental health crisis and waited four days to be seen by the mental health team …”. “What would Ed do about that?” Ed responded carefully to the questions, asked, if people didn’t mind, could they tell him more about what had happened?
So, perhaps, my question would also have begun with a personal account: “My friend Sara’s son Connor died in a National Health Service Assessment and Treatment Unit, he was a young dude with epilepsy left in the bath, alone, and drowned. He died a preventable death. There are still 3,000+ people with learning disabilities still warehoused in these shit holes, er, institutions. What, Ed, would you do about that?”
And later that week, through the magic of twitter, the answer came, not from Ed himself, but in a tweet declaring that after the election Labour would set up ‘’a cross government committee on disability”.
It seems that we are stuck in a learning disability loop: Committee, Inquiry, Report, Repeat…Committee, Inquiry, Report, Repeat…
There is already a list as long as your arm of report documenting the abuse and preventable deaths of people with learning disabilities: Death by Indifference #deathbyindifference Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities #CIPOLD Transforming care: A national response to Winterbourne View Hospital #postwinterbourneview.
So here’s an idea for Ed, Dave, Nick, Nicola, Leanne, Natalie and Nigel. Radical, I know, let’s stop spending the pounds on committees, reports and inquiries and start spending them on changing the system and services for people with learning disabilities*.
* If you’re not sure what to do, and it seems successive governments aren’t, then ask people with learning disabilities, their family members and allies; they can point you in the right direction. You could start by tipping up at the Justice Shed for a bit of a chat.