Crippen looks at the reality of life in a residential home / 25 January 2010
Disabled activists, who campaign to raise awareness of those disabled people who are currently incarcerated in one of the many homes run and controlled by the big disability charities, are often asked, "but surely in this day and age, no one is kept in these places against their will?"
In answer to this, I want to tell you about John (not his real name), who resides in a Leonard Cheshire home for young disabled people. We've exchanged emails a couple of times and I've sent him a copy of my 2010 cartoon calendar. He told me that he has to hide the calendar because the staff wouldn't approve of some of the cartoons in it, especially those that parody the type of behaviour that the staff participate in!
John, like hundreds of other disabled people in his position, faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life trapped in the Leonard Cheshire system. There is no support offered to those disabled people who want to break away from this institutionalised care; no advice on how to navigate through the bureaucracy that prevents him and others from accessing the sort of care package that would allow him to live on his own, or with friends. He talks of being patronised and treated like a child; visited by 'do-gooders' whose sole objective, it seems, is to get another dose of that 'feel good' factor at his expense.
John has given me permission to reproduce the following extract from his last email...
"Do you know we have Father Christmas coming round on Christmas Day? I mean, some fat patronising bloke in a red suit comes round with his stupid sodding bell saying "Ho Ho Ho" and giving out presents (invariably tins of shortbread; there's a glut for the next few weeks.) We're all adults, it's a home for young adults (though some people are now elderly having lived here for years) and that's what they do; treat us like little infant kids. What's perhaps even worse, is that a lot of the people here don't get to go out. I mean practically never, not for weeks upon end; as they don't have the support they need and family don't bother with them. We could really do with volunteers from (say) the local Lions to get people out of this depressing and distressing place. But we only ever see them on Christmas Day when they come and make themselves feel better about themselves by patronising charity towards us cripples.
I hide from him. I mean - a 30-odd year old man hiding from Father Christmas in his own home. It's not pretty, I tell you."
So the next time you see a member of the Disabled people's Direct Action Network (DAN) shouting out "Free our people!" think about John and hundreds of other Disabled people just like him.
Keywords: charities,direct action network (dan),disabled people's movement,residential care,young disabled people,