Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Challenging Behaviour


On the 17th February the Full Council of Lancashire County Council met and voted through unprecedented cuts -many of these cuts fall on the most vulnerable, children & adults with disabilities.

Families of those affected who attended the meeting were appalled at being ejected from the meeting by police as the behaviour of councillors during the meeting left alot to be desired and has been widely condemned. The conduct of the council leader, Geoff Driver, has come under particular scrutiny.

Families of those affected by cuts attended the meeting to find out what these cuts would mean in practice but were met with threats by the council of police intervention if they raised objections.

The police were not as such 'called' to the meeting but were already in the council building - for the first time in 20 years. Unprecedented indeed.

The police themselves are facing cuts to their own organisation. The police who attended were mostly respectful of families and there to do a job as instructed by their managers & the council.

Much of the cuts which warranted a police presence were to the services which disabled children & adults and their families who care for them need to live a tolerable life. Note tolerable, not decent or normal ...just tolerable.

For far too long disabled children & adults and their families have generally been faced with the assumption that they should lead a life of lesser expectation than those not affected by disability due to 'rationing of resources'.

One parent, a mother of a disabled child, attempted politely "please", "may I", "with respect" etc, to raise a question from the public gallery during the meeting. The mother objected to the services herself & her son used being implicated as 'waste' during the budget debate - in fact the respite centre her son accesses helps to ensure that his mother is able to continue meeting his extra needs which otherwise would cost the state a whole lot more. Unpaid carers -usually families- save the state £87bn a year.

Instead of addressing her question ...she was ordered by the council to be removed by police.

Police try to remove remaining families from the public gallery

The council leader Geoff Driver later said that when this mother got up to speak she ceased to be a mother of a disabled child and became 'an unruly member of the public no better than ...louts'. Witness accounts, including the media present, recognised that the mother spoke with dignity and restraint. She did not cease to be a mother of a disabled child but spoke because of this and with the best interests of her and the other children who use the respite units at heart.

In contrast the boorish behaviour of the council leader and other councillors -smirking, talking when others were speaking and eating sweets during the meeting has been well noted - it was as if it was all a game - yet they were making decisions on the life, death & quality of life of the most vulnerable in Lancashire. .

One can have little faith in any decisions taken by Lancashire County Council when those taking such decisions have so little understanding of the lives of families affected by disability and in need of their support.

The mother who spoke because she was the mother of a disabled child wanting to do the best for her son is owed an apology by the leader of Lancashire County Council.