Once upon a time there were two families. They both lived in the same county but as it was a big county, they lived far away from each other. They had never met and each family didn’t know the other existed.
One family lived in a town and the other lived in the country. The mums of the families did really different jobs and the dads of the families did really different jobs too. Their different sets of children were different ages and went to different schools and did different jobs, far away from each other.
But these two families had one thing in common. They both had sons who were disabled. But the two disabled sons were very different to each other too and they went to different schools far away from each other and they never met.
One was tall and handsome with a quick tongue and lots to say. He made people laugh. He liked to laugh too. He was imaginative, he was curious. He loved buses; he loved coaches, and lorries. He could walk and talk, dress and feed himself, take himself to the loo when he wanted to, but he had epilepsy, autism and learning difficulties. When he began to be unhappy and to have problems his family thought that the move would be helpful for him. He would benefit from his time there, develop a good understanding of what he needed for his future happiness and then go forward into a different home and a better life.
The other son was slight and fair. He had athetoid cerebral palsy and couldn’t speak, couldn’t walk, he couldn’t dress himself or go to the loo on his own. He needed lots of help with everyday physical things but he loved to laugh and to make other people laugh. He was very loving and very loved by his many friends and his family. He loved adventures. He filled the room with his bright personality, adored music and art and was kind and sensitive. He was happy and safe where he lived but he was forced to leave the home he loved against his and his families wishes and live in a place where he was unhappy and unsafe.
Then both sons died in places that used to be run by Ridgeway Trust and were taken over by Southern Health. Neither should have died. Both deaths were preventable. The deaths of both sons were dealt with by Southern Health who have treated and continue to treat both families very badly.
Connor died in an “Assessment and Treatment Unit” in Oxford. Nico had died 10 months earlier in a “Supported living home” in a village in South Oxfordshire.
Because the two son’s disabilities were so different and the families lived far from each other, even in death they didn’t know anything about each other. Then, little by little, they found out about each other’s campaigns for justice, their shared sorrow and a burning desire for justice. Without knowing each other, they support each other’s fights for justice.
Our families have never met and perhaps they never will. In almost every single way their stories are quite different, but they are only two sides of the same fight, the fight to make sure that our young disabled people are valued and treated with the respect and care which their families hold them in. That in life and in death they are treated as if our society values them and holds their lives to be important. That the wishes of our young people are heard and acted on, rather than ignored. That the families of our young people are judged to be knowledgeable experts whose views are placed at the front and centre of all care given to our young people. That no more young people are forced to live where they don’t want to be and that they are given the support to lead the best, most fulfilling and happiest lives possible.
Here is the story of one of those families. It is the tale of the tall and handsome boy who liked to laugh.