You can’t read Leo’s story without thinking “what if?”. What if Leo didnt get the support that he needed? What would his life be like? and what would his Mum’s?
With help, Leo can experience opportunities, pleasure, work, fun and the company of friends just like the rest of us. Without that help, all would be down to his Mum. That couldn’t work and it wouldnt be right for either of them. We know that carers are under huge pressure, and the whole family is affected. Over 60% of mothers go out to work, but under 20% of mothers of disabled children do. We risk limiting the whole family’s lives, and we can’t ask even more of parents for 50, 60 or 70 years.
But support for people like Leo really is at risk. In the last few years fewer and fewer local authorities have offered support to people with moderate disabilities. The figure was over three quarters until recently and is is now less than half. And now we have the first few councils refusing to support people with “only” severe needs. If you are not “critical” there are already places where you are on your own, and more are considering it in anticipation of 20 October.
This reduction in eligibility will accelerate as the spending cuts bite. Fewer people will get support, and the danger is that those who do will receive less. We will have to watch this carefully in the next few months.
Stories like Leo’s remind us of what life can be like. But they also remind us of how fragile support systems are. As citizens we are going to have to be actively engaged with our local councils. They will have less money. We will have to seek to make sure it is spent on what is most important. And that is protecting human rights.