Last week, I was invited by Radio 5 Live to be part of their “Your Call” hour. This time it was to be part of a panel of “the public” interviewing Andy Burnham before the big day tomorrow.
This was a much more formal set up than the last time I was on the show. The last broadcast was from a Kent school, in their library, sat on very comfortable sofas. This time, we were at their studio in London and sat on a very hard chair with a camera next to my head and bless them, they thought I needed a boom microphone over my head to be heard.
Now, before I talk about the show, I have to confess here that growing up on Merseyside, as a Liverpool FC fan, I have a lot of time for Andy Burnham. I remember watching him as he stood at a Hillsborough memorial in Anfield being booed by the families. He stood there and then promised he would do everything he could to help the families get Justice for the 96. I respect him (despite his football allegiance) for not just talking the talk and actively helping the families. As we know, the new inquest into Hillsborough is currently taking place in Warrington and more than a few shocking truths have come out. So I was really pleased to be able to say thank you to him personally when we met last week.
However, as a mum of three children with a variety of SEND, I had a job to do at Radio 5 Live. I needed to know if this man and his party would support our children’s rights with the same passion as he showed for the Hillsborough families. I walked in with mixed views about Labour. It was the Labour party who introduced the ATOS disaster that impacted negatively on so many families but they also introduced Aiming High for Disabled Children which had a positive impact.
It was an interesting mix of people, a real spread of ages, party preferences and backgrounds. There were some great questions asked around social care, the NHS and CAMHS – the audience had some very passionate ladies. One lady was a trainee social worker who had actually grown up in care and she was just inspirational. I spent time with her before the interview and walked away thinking “we need more people like you in the world”. I have transcribed the questions and answers that I believe are relevant to the families reading this blog. You can listen to the whole interview online (link above) but I think it disappears after a short time.
Youth Services, Social Care and Spending Cuts
Disabled Children and Accountability
When Labour were last in Government, Ed Ball helped to introduce Aiming High for Disabled Children. You used words such as “aspiration” and “inclusion”. As a mum of three children with SEN, this was a positive thing. How would you build on that if you were successful next week?
It was reassuring to hear Andy speak of campaigns such as Get Maisie Home and about giving us rights in the NHS constitution and a key worker role. However, I think he (like every other MP I have met) hasn’t realised that the real issue is accountability. This is the issue for families. This is what we need to be addressed.
Mark Neary wrote a great blog yesterday for the #LBBill #107days campaign about how he is fed up of hearing about the “need for culture change” and he is right. I hold my hand up and say I have talked about the culture change but it shouldn’t be about the culture change. If the law says you have to do something, then it should be done. If the law says you can’t do something, then you don’t. It’s that simple. If you don’t do what the law says, then there should be a real, appropriate and more than adequate penalty. The penalty should be something that makes people stop and think twice before tweaking legislation to meet their budget or agenda.
We have so much legislation in place but things still go wrong and people die. As LB’s mum would say “yes, they die”
All the key workers and rights won’t help us until someone is holding the LA, NHS and other departments truly accountable. Not a token slap on the wrist, not a “now don’t do it again, you naughty person” but a real penalty.
When Winterbourne View happened, people actually turned off their TV sets because the scenes were so harrowing, that should have been the turning point. The point where someone in a position to do so said “enough” and did something about it. And when I say “did something about it”, I mean real things. Not wasting tonnes of funding on “reviews” , pretty little Boards and tokenistic consultations. I mean get it stopped. I mean have those who break the law held accountable, not given further funding to help them not do it again, the poor little things!
If legislation and rights were enough, we would not have Justice for LB, Get Maisie Home, Justice for Nico, Iam Thomas or any of the many other campaigns. If legislation and rights were enough, I wouldn’t look at Facebook every day and read story after story of a family in crisis or yet another family battling their LA. Families wouldn’t be paying out for private assessment, LA’s wouldn’t be complying with budget legislation ahead of disability legislation and I wouldn’t hear of yet another family who has lost their child due to the failings of the system. Crucially, if legislation and rights were enough, I would have time to be mum and not just carer of…
So, Andy, giving us rights in the NHS Constitution is a lovely idea but without true accountability, it’s not enough. When you were talking, it was obvious that you have heard of the issues we face and that you want to help. You have evidence that you will walk the walk rather than talk the talk. So do that for us, sort out accountability and make it real.
Your party have my vote tomorrow (there you go, everyone, I have said it – I will be voting Labour), but Andy, please don’t let it be a vote that I end up regretting.