Good news from the north-west: the Calvert family have won their case to have family member Mike offered a home in his own community.
Mike was born with Trisomy 21, and has led a full and productive life, working for 20 years in a local factory that produces labels and packaging. A few years ago, he had to give up his job when he began to develop dementia and limitations on his mobility. Michael is a gentle, kind and loving man, but at age 47, he now has high care needs, which his immediate family are having increasing difficulty with meeting in full. Reluctantly, they have come to the decision that it is time to seek twenty-four-hour, paid-for, care for Mike.
Mike’s mother Marilyn and his younger sister Jennifer had found a ‘fantastic, ideal’ place for Mike in his hometown of Wigton, just around the corner from his friends and family, and everything looked to be falling nicely into place until the local commissioners for care refused to give approval for Mike to live in the Wigton home. They suggested that a place in Workington (22 miles away) or Maryport (16 miles) might be suitable.
For anybody with dementia, being removed from the familiar is unhelpful and disorienting. For Mike, who has lived all his life in Wigton, staying local was vital. The family decided they had to go public with the story, and were overwhelmed with support in Wigton. Local news organisations picked up the story after Jennifer started an online petition in mid-December 2014. Over 155,000 people (thank you each and every one) supported her call for Mike to be cared for near his friends and family. “He needs us and we need him”, said Jennifer.
On 19 January, the commissioners met to reconsider their decision. They concluded that Mike could go to the place that his family had found, one street over from his mother’s house. The family have found campaigning for Mike’s future while still caring for him ‘exhausting’. “This has been a hard fight and it’s taken a long time”, said Jennifer. “I just want to say thank you, thank you to everyone – the support is what’s kept us going. We still have to give Mike up and give him to other people, but at least we know we’re giving him to the right place for his future.”
That the Calverts have felt they needed to mobilise tens of thousands of supporters, simply in order for humane common-sense to prevail, is abominable. It should be an obvious given that the wishes of people with disabilities and their needs come before marginal financial savings. For the sake of families in situations similar to the Calverts’, the LBBill needs to become law as soon as possible, so that people with disabilities no longer have a fight on their hands in order to get the living arrangements that they (and their families) want and need.