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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