Someone I once met briefly at a consultation on disability services has been charged with murdering her son. He was in his teens, had the intellectual capacity of a two year old and was violent. I do not know whether the defence team will go for self-defence or temporary mental incapacity. Either way it would be wrong to see this woman incarcerated. She loved her son. Her mental anguish and despair is something I cannot begin to comprehend.
Her family will love and support her. They always have. They loved the child. In the end it was just too much. She had to be the primary carer - all day, every day. Her husband had to go to work to support the family.
There are far too many families in that position. They live in policy prisons, prisons made by government policy. This is a government policy which says, people with disabilities have a right to live in the community. It sounds good. Few would disagree with it. The problem is that the government's notion of how to approach this right is to say, "Your family will look after you." That is the end of the story for the government. It is a cost saving measure for them.
They are supported in this by the articulate minority of people with disabilities who are able to live in the community. They can fight for their own needs and services. Many of them hold down responsible jobs. They passionately believe in the right of everyone to 'live in the community'. When others point out that it is not possible for their child and that, as a result, an entire family is isolated from the rest of the community the articulate minority say, "It is just a matter of more support services, of more respite care. You have to fight for it."
The reality is that it is not just a matter of more support services, or more respite care. These families do not have the energy for the fight. It requires resources, organisation, time, powerful lobbying, media interest. They do no have resources. The organisations which are supposed to speak on their behalf keep to government policy for fear of losing the little funding they get. The families do not have the time or energy to lobby - and nobody will listen anyway because this is not a cute, good looking little kid with a visible disability who will make a good human interest story on the media.
So we go on having families where everything that can be locked away or bolted down will be locked away or bolted down. The crockery and cutlery will be plastic. The other children learn it is not possible to bring friends home. They can never have a birthday party - and so do not get invited to the parties of other children. Their parents sleep in shifts so that someone is always alert for trouble. They never attend school events as a family. They never visit - even relatives - as a family. They are never visited. Money is always short. Everyone is constantly on edge waiting for the next explosion of frustration and anger from the child who does not understand the world around them.
It's a good policy. It saves the government money. It provides for the rights of the individual with the disability. It ignores the rights of the other members of the family. That is all right isn't it? They can look after themselves - or can they?