Open Forum

It is scandalous that a disabled man of 23 should be expected to live in an older people’s home, writes Mike Shaw

As too many disabled people and their carers know, our health and social care system is inadequate and systematically unable to meet their long-term needs.

A week after his graduation, Matthew, 23, had a brain haemorrhage. He was in a coma for 11 months and in hospital for 13. He received fantastic treatment before being sent home. Then nothing happened. His local authority advised that the best they could offer was a move into a home for older people. There were no specialist facilities to help Matthew continue his recovery and regain his independence.

Five years later nothing has changed. Matthew is still living at home and the strain is showing. His mother refuses to place him in an older people’s home.

Matthew’s story is not unique. Research reveals that 9,000 young disabled people are living in settings intended for a different client group – often older people. While advances in medical science allow individuals to survive what in the past would have been fatal trauma, what happens once the doctors leave is far from clear. As Matthew’s mother says: “I keep wondering why they spent all that money on him in hospital. What was the point if there is nothing now?”

Yet there are care homes that allow people to live as independently as possible with the security of 24-hour care. Vibrant, modern residential schemes that encourage independence must be available for those who choose to live in them.

The government blames health and local authorities for failing to tackle the shortage of residential places; the authorities in turn criticise the lack of government funding. Guess who is caught in the middle of all this? 

Time is precious. Matthew, and others like him, have a life to live. Individual-based solutions are urgently needed. A range of choices including residential care, supported living and independent housing should be the right of every disabled person and their carers in a modern society.

Mike Shaw is chief executive of John Grooms, which provides services and support to disabled people

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