Once again, we’re facing a situation where the rights of the disabled are ignored and progress is slow to change the legislation on the issue.
Currently, parents who are in the dreadful position of being unable to care for their disabled child can place them in a residential care home. The thing is though, is that that’s it. The child can be living in a home indefinitely, possibly even the rest of their lives, which means being deprived of community or family life
Non-disabled children can only stay in a residential facility for a maximum of six months and they are assigned an advocate to protect their rights as well as regular reviews. Children with disabilities are given no such treatment. This makes them susceptible to neglect and abuse. This may be uncommon, but possible nonetheless and with the lack of reviews, where are the children expected to turn for protection? This cuts down to the core stigma that people with disabilities don’t have a voice. Even as an adult, I still have people asking my friends and family, “So what does she do?” while I’m right there and capable of answering that question myself. Apparently I don’t even have a name. The first step is to acknowledge that children with disabilities have just as many rights as children without, and one of those is the right to safety and a healthy family life.
Secondly, I can’t even imagine how difficult and heartbreaking it must be to make the decision to place your child in a home. This is why adequate resources and training need to be provided to such families from the beginning so they know how to best take care of their child. This will then prevent the likelihood of parents having to make such an awful decision in the long run. The increased availability of short-term respite care facilities is an example of such a resource, which is what the Vulnerable Children’s Bill is proposing. They are also proposing that if there is still no possibility of the child returning home to their parents, they can then be moved to the care of another family as opposed to remaining in a type of ‘limbo’ state, where they have no idea what their future holds – yet another right that children with disabilities deserve but currently don’t always have.
I’m not saying these children are not being properly taken care of in residential care homes. I think caregivers and support workers who have the skills necessary to take care of a person with high needs are one of the most underappreciated groups of people in our community. But what I am saying is that it is simply not good enough that children with disabilities are somewhat locked away from society and deprived of being part of the wider community because of some archaic legislation that was founded upon the out-dated ‘institutionalisation’ type mentality. As the lobby group CCS Disability Action says, “Professionals are no real substitute for a family”.