Monday, April 22, 2024
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Our Down’s son and the truths that can’t be said


I KNOW it’s shocking but if we’d known how things would turn out we might have made different decisions. 

We didn’t think much about having an amniocentesis; we were just in the system. It was a shock when it came back indicating Down’s. That made us think. We are churchgoers but we made our own decision at home. But that’s by the way. We were as muddled then as now and not particularly logical; more like naive. We hadn’t thought things through, but do the young ever? 

Before the test we’d already started to love our baby. We had no doubt that he was a gift from God. We didn’t suddenly want to kill him just because he was disabled. We just thought that we’d manage . . . one step at a time. All babies are born helpless. It’s just that with Will he needed more help than other children and never became independent. Never will.

When he went to special school he was looked after there. We had to manage during evenings, weekends and holidays but we had breaks. Residential college started at 18 and that was marvellous but at 22 it was the end of state provision.  

Fortunately, part of his college training was in horticulture and he found a placement doing low-skill repetitive jobs, watering plants and, top of his skill level, pricking out seedlings into individual pots. It was kind of the nursery to have him on board. They paid him just over £1 an hour, much more than the value of work he was producing, but the job gave him the satisfaction of doing something for someone and earning pocket money. 

Then along came the minimum wage and the nursery simply couldn’t carry the cost of raising his wage so much. It’s over £8 an hour now and the amount of work Will can do in an hour is nothing like that. No one can afford to employ him. So Will has no job now, nor any chance of getting one. The one thing that gave him real satisfaction and joy has been taken from him. 

You’d think you could argue the case for exceptions for people like Will but you simply can’t. David Scott, a Conservative councillor, knew from personal experience with his own disabled daughter how much the Wills of this world need the fulfilment of employment. He asked the Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, if it would be possible for people like Will to be employed at a lower rate.  Freud was nearly sacked even for expressing sympathy. Cameron made Freud eat humble pie.  The same thing happened this week when Sally Ann Hart, Tory candidate for Hastings, caused uproar for saying exactly what any rational person knows is obvious, that employment to give the Wills of this world the happiness of working is more important than the pay rate. The woke media was up in arms. 

So here is another truth that political correctness makes unsayable, that it is more important for my son to have a job at a low wage than to have no job at all. Why can’t it be said? Why can’t politicians be honest and say true things that would make my son’s life easier? 

I suppose the state really would have preferred me to polish him off before birth. That’s what all this late-term abortion of the disabled is all about, isn’t it? Rather than be honest that there are some people who have significantly less ability, something that infringes the equality dogma, we make sure that these people don’t see the light of day.

As I started by saying, had we known earlier, we might have made different decisions. Perhaps it is better that we didn’t know.

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