I judged Katie Price for wanting respite care for Harvey, until I put myself in her shoes

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I judged Katie Price for wanting respite care for Harvey, until I put myself in her shoes



When I think of residential care I cannot help but associate them with exclusion, segregation and isolation from mainstream society (Photo: WENN)Would you ever consider putting your child into residential care?
This is the decision some parents are having to make, including Loose Women star Katie Price, who recently admitted she is thinking of putting her 16 year old son Harvey, who was born with a variety of complex needs, into residential care as he is increasingly becoming a danger to himself.
I have to confess, I battled my own prejudices when I heard the news.
As someone who was born with mobility impairment osteogenesis impefecta, the thought of my mother even thinking about taking me out of the family home and putting me into a strange environment would have devastated me and left me feeling like a burden and simply unwanted.
As a disability campaigner I fight hard for the rights of the disabled community and to change perceptions and misconceptions about what it means to be disabled.
I campaign to show that people with disabilities can live full and meaningful lives and having a disabled child does not have to mean a life sentence for them and their families.
When I think of residential care I cannot help but associate them with exclusion, segregation and isolation from mainstream society and the historical parallels of the ‘asylums’ that once existed for people that were mentality ill and those who had learning disabilities.
Fortunately, ‘asylums’ were abolished in the early 1980s after a series of scandals revealed neglect and abuse and the Jay Report encouraged the ‘care in the community’ programme, a system of care and support for people with disabilities and mental illness, which believed that people with disabilities should live within the community instead of segregated.
I am in no doubt that if you support families by giving them the tools and emotional support needed to care for their child with a disability they would not have to feel like they are failing as parents.
I was very conflicted. I had to ask whether my concerns towards residential care were well founded? We are living in a very different time and attitudes towards the disabled community have come a long way after all.
Was I judging those families who have decided to seek out residential care for their loved ones too harshly?
I turned to my auntie who has had to make that exact decision for my cousin who was born with Down’s syndrome and other severe cognitive impairments. Similar to Katie’s son, Harvey, my cousin had become increasingly dangerous, not only to herself, but to others around her.
She was incredibly strong and she needed 24 hour care. My auntie and uncle, who also have two other children, struggled to give her the care she so desperately needed and deserved.
It was by no means an easy decision to make but actually my cousin flourished in residential care as she had all the resources she needed all the time.
I came to the realisation that putting a child into residential care is by no means the ‘easy-way out!’ These parents are just like any other parents who simply love their children dearly and want the best possible life for them. Making such a decision can be one of the hardest things they ever have to do.
Residential care would not be the right choice for someone like myself but I know that for some it would actually enhance their quality of life and provide them with the care and support they desperately need.
I would say that I have set aside the prejudices I previously had towards families that used residential facilities and now wholeheartedly respect and value their individual choices. We can never judge someone’s decisions when we don’t live their lives and do not have their shared experiences.
Nevertheless, I do still feel as though we as a society need to support families and individuals who have disabilities so that residential care isn’t left as the only way parents feel they can ensure their children have the best care.
Research by the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) found that 97 per cent of parents with a disabled child say that the public do not understand the challenges they face every day. The DCP also identified a £1.5m funding gap for disabled children’s health and social care.
Stephen Kingdom, Campaign Manager for the Disabled Children’s Partnership, said:
‘The number of disabled children in this country is on the rise. It’s therefore vital that the number of support services keeps pace, making help available to the children and young people and their families who need extra support.
‘We often hear that parents battle with a sense of guilt about not being able to meet their child’s needs and that they are continually fighting for extra help. Services like short respite breaks can help to reduce some of the pressure and anxiety that can build within a family when caring for a child with a disability.’
More: Katie Price

The charity disability charity Scope also recognises this shortfall of services to support disabled children and their families, stating in their Now is The Time report that £433 million extra is needed for social care. The funding needed would plug the gap in services such as specialist equipment, speech therapy and short breaks.
I am in no doubt that if you support families by giving them the tools and emotional support needed to care for their child with a disability they would not have to feel like they are failing as parents.
I wonder if the full support was given to these families whether they would reconsider residential care for their children?
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