No doubt those of you in the UK will have heard about the James Hughes case, the severely disabled man whose body was found in a suitcase in the garden after his mother hanged herself. Once again a finger is being pointed at social services for not noticing that he’d lost huge amounts of weight, and at his GP for not having seen him for three years.
Well let me tell you something. Paul, my 30 year old son, also has profound learning difficulties (as did James) and in the eleven years we’ve been living in this country, social services have seen him once! Yes, that’s right, once! ONE TIME IN ELLEVEN YEARS! And that wasn’t in this town but while we were living in Manchester. And what’s more, they weren’t particularly interested in him either. I was told there was no work available for him and no respite care other than a weekend in a house shared with drug addicts. Yepp… that’s the God’s honest truth!
During the seven years we’ve lived here, they haven’t seen him at all. NOT ONCE!! They know of him, but they haven’t bothered to visit him, enquire about him, or anything else. For all they know, Paul could be dead and they wouldn’t even notice!
His GP has seen him maybe twice during those seven years and certainly not for the past three years. For all he knows, Paul could be dead.
A few years ago he had an appointment with the hospital that I cancelled. Nobody asked why and when I said he didn’t need a new appointment that was accepted without question. Paul could be dead.
Paul receives disability living allowance but nobody has asked to see him since he was first awarded the benefit. It just goes into the bank but Paul could be dead.
The neighbours haven’t seen him for a couple of years - not since he came home from my Mum’s two summers ago to come on holiday with us. Nobody has asked about him. He could be dead.
The point I’m trying to make is that anything could happen to Paul and nobody would notice. It’s just assumed that all is well. But how do they know that? How do they know that taking care of Paul didn’t become too much for me and that one day I snapped and…. well…. did the unthinkable?
I can assure you that Paul is very much alive and well and still helping my mum care for my dad but you really only have my word for that. Some of you will know it’s the truth because you know me personally and have seen Paul, but most of you don’t. I could be covering up something sinister, couldn’t I? How would you know? How would anybody know when nobody follows him up? I don't even have a recent photo of him to post here to prove he's alive and well (he is though, honestly. I'd hate to think you really think I might have... !)
Paul is just one of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in this country and I’m sure he’s not the only one who hasn’t been followed up properly. Who knows what might be going on behind closed doors? It’s hard being the parent of a disabled child and it doesn’t get easier when they become adults - sometimes a person’s patience can only stretch so far and when they’re not getting help….
It’s a scary situation.
Once Paul comes home for good I shall contact social services and ask why he hasn’t been assessed regularly. I wonder what they’ll say.