Monckton ignores the elephant in the room

Last night BBC1 aired a programme, Letting Go (available until 20th March in the UK), presented by Rosa Monckton, one-time friend of Princess Diana and whose daughter Domenica, god-daughter of Diana, has Down’s syndrome. She interviewed a number of young adults who had Down’s syndrome or other learning disabilities and their parents. Two of the older subjects had tried to move out of their parents’ home into a flat on their own, in one case ending in failure although another was hanging on. She found that for an adult with severe learning disabilities to live “independently” required a lot of support, which often had to be provided by parents as it wasn’t forthcoming from the state.

Another blog has already pointed out some of the inaccuracies in the programme, among them the claim that, if you don’t have a formal diagnosis, you can’t get social care, although perhaps it was the experience of this particular family. There was, however, an obvious conflict of interest which seems to have led to a glaring omission. You see, Monckton is not only an old friend of Lady Di, she’s the husband of former Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson (who carried on the family tradition of naming his daughter after himself, like his dad Nigel Lawson, the former chanceller of the Exchequer under Thatcher), who appeared in the programme. She’s quite a rich person, and none of the families shown in this programme are close to indigent — they all live in houses, in what appear to be rural villages. None of them live in a flat, in anything that looks like a council estate. None of them were struggling.

The struggles of ordinary people with disabled children (whether they have learning disabilities or anything else) are completely absent from this programme. Yes, some parents can afford to rent a separate flat for their adult children; many can’t. Some in fact find it hard enough to keep one roof over their heads. The word “cuts” does not feature even once in this programme — the fact that day services are being closed and sold off, that home care is being ever more severely rationed, that Disability Living Allowance is being replaced so as to pare it down, and that some people are just not coping. It’s all very well to rail against disability hate crime (and attribute it to lower-class yobs), but the attacks on the disabled by a government of the rich, led by someone who never misses an opportunity to remind of us of his dead disabled son, does not get a look-in. Monckton was the wrong person to present a programme on this issue in this political climate.

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  • Typo last sentence? Monckton was the wrong person to present a programme.

    And yes, the programme was straight from middle-class la-la land.

  • Riveninside

    Agree totally.

  • I can’t comment on the progrmme itself  as I haven’t seen it (though i’ve bookmarked to watch later today thank you for the link).  But I was interested by the comment at the end that Monckton was the wrong person to present the programme.  Would it have been better not to have the programme at all?

    This isn’t a snide question but a genuine one.  Is your view that the programme did a disservice because of the presenter?  Would it have been better not to have been made at all?  I imagine that the fact that it was made is because of her background, she has the contacts and the wherewithal to take the programme from idea to reality so the alternative, a programme made by a parent in more “normal” circumstances, would be much less likely to come to fruition.

  • I’m not saying the programme shouldn’t have been made, but if Monckton had been involved, it should have been as a guest and not the lead presenter. She is too politically compromised to present a programme on the struggles facing the parents of adults with learning disabilities and show the full picture, including the impact of present government policy.

    The presenter didn’t have to be a parent, in any case - it could have been just a presenter, and if it was, they could have been aided by BBC researchers, as such programmes normally are. I’m not sure if the families Monckton got access to would have been unavailable to a BBC researcher.

  • I watched the programme and could relate. I have a teenage son with autism, severe learning difficulty and epilepsy.  On the contrary I think Rosa Monckton has worked hard to raise awareness of the struggles that families face with a child with a disability. She presented a programme in 2009 ‘When a Mother’s Love is not Enough’  Granted, she has the media contacts and standing and whilst my son has a much different set of complex disabilities, it hit home. My cousin is now 51 he has been in supported accommodation since age 11 and has Downs syndrome. Yes we could talk that it would have been better from a working class perspective, but this was a hard hitting snapshot of vulnerable young people who deserve a good quality of life and the message that it portrays for parents, from one parent to others, was how heart wrenching actually letting go of our children can be.

  • My question though was if Monckton was the impetus behind the programme and the reason that it was made then without her there might not have been a programme at all.  Would that have been preferable?

    Yes, it is possible that she could have got the ball rolling and then handed over to someone else, but as she is a parent of a child with learning disabilities  she may well have had a not unreasonable desire to maintain some control over the project.