A Whopping Big Thank You

Boom. That was the week that was. That was the week of
7 Days of Action. It’s going to take a long time to process all that has happened.

We want to thank each and every one of you for the phenomenal support you have given to the campaign. We have been blown away by the way people have stepped up to the plate and got right behind the mum’s and the seven dudes. As I write, the blog containing the seven stories has received 72,580 views. The stories have been retweeted and shared on Facebook by an incredible number of people. We are so grateful and moved by everyone’s humanity.

So many people got into the spirit of the campaign and just ran with it. All the posts and actions have been collated on the blog and will remain as an archive of the Seven Days of Action. Elaine James has also compiled a magnificent Storify of the week’s highlights which adds to the history. It’s unfair to single out individuals but I just want to mention a couple. A huge thanks to Chris Hatton and Ian Penfold who wrote daily pieces to support the campaign and it was great to get the contributions from two dudes who have experienced life in an ATU. Thank you Peter and Steven.

On a personal note, I want to thank the seven mums who bravely shared their stories. I can’t begin to describe the enormous pressure they were under from the professionals who have control of their sons, not to tell their stories. But tell them they did and I salute their courage. Thank you Debs, Eve, Paula, Nina, Leo, Jackie and Mother P.

What happens next is down to everyone. It is everybody’s campaign. There isn’t a campaign committee, it’s simply a group of determined people at their wits end. There have been some stonking suggestions over the past week and we hope these can all be carried forward. The blog and Facebook group will remain open for folk to discuss the next steps. And we will update you on the progress of the seven dudes and hope that the legal people who have come on board can bring about some happy endings.

My belief is that our biggest hope for the future lies with the seven dudes themselves. One thing the professionals completely miss in all these cases is that it is impossible to break the human spirit and will of these guys. The week before the campaign I met Jack, who two days beforehand had been released from a long detention in an ATU. He was talking about his future. He hadn’t been broken. None of the dudes featured in Seven Days of Action have. They couldn’t break Thomas’s will. They broke his body.

I think my favourite story of the whole week happened on Friday. It was Eden’s (our day one dude) review. The advocate who was acting for him reported that after 7 years detention, he is able to express what he wanted totally clearly and say what he wanted for his future. That’s will. That’s the human spirit.

So a massive thank you for sharing your spirit to Eden, Jack, Thomas, Tianze, Stephen, Robert and P. We will get you home.

Many, many thanks to everyone.

Advertisements

“Natural Causes”

Thomas Rawnsley died on the 4th February 2015. He was 20 years old. Thomas had a diagnosis of Downs Syndrome and Autism. He was just 4ft 10″ in height. Thomas had been in three different ATUs leading up to his death.

Here are the words of Thomas’s mother Paula.

Thomas1

Someone told me at my sons funeral that time would heal. That I would never forget him but it would get easier. I don’t want to talk about his unspeakable, cruel death he suffered alone and away from me. I don’t want to think about the horror he faced in those final hours away from me. I hurt for him and me more and more every day. I fought so hard for my boy. They were always so powerful and Thomas was special to me.

I didn’t know how I was going to cope with him when I found out he had Downs Syndrome. His father and I were so worried, no one gave us any hope or encouragement but we tried so hard alone and brought up the sweetest, mischievous, loving boy ever. He loved his three older sisters and they loved him equally. We had one great family and we struggled with all the ups and downs families have normally.

Thomas2

But like many children going into their teens Thomas started to be troubled. Although very slight in stature (he was only 4ft 10) he could be very strong. He also was diagnosed at this time with autism and so trying to understand what was happening to him was hard. He didn’t want to go to school and I was under pressure to get him and the others to school. I asked for help. How I wish that I never had asked for help now. How I wish darling Thomas I had kept you by my side and never let you go.

Thomas7

The journey for Thomas was a darker and terrifying descent into a land of hospitals, drugs, cruelty and abuse resulting in a ‘carer’ targeting him deliberately and bending back his fingers to torture him among other means of torture and repression. Thomas had a will and stood up for himself despite his small size but they gradually beat him down and then they broke him and us with him the day he died in their non care. I knew he would die away from me. When he was finally sent away from us by a judge who said he “was getting bored and needed his tea’ I wept. I knew he would never come home. I knew it would be the end. I’d been secretly gagged by the court for daring to talk about the previous abuse in a local paper . I had nowhere to go with my problems and pleading. Thomas’s official advocate had promised to stand against the transfer to the home in Sheffield but he turned against him on the day and agreed with the courts. Thomas was bundled off sobbing and I didn’t get the chance to say good bye.

Thomas9

The odds were always stacked against us. The last meeting I had with the professionals there were three lawyers in the room plus senior officers. We had a volunteer with us. We were not listened to. I told them Thomas had a serious chest infection and they said it wasn’t up for discussion at that meeting. Instead they told us it was an expensive meeting so I needed to listen to the important people. They had no intention of getting any grant money on offer to get Thomas housing. They stopped the application. It would have given us some hope and my darling boy some hope. Instead he died feeling hopeless and losing his faith in anyone to help him. The professionals at the meeting refused to let the Minister of Health Norman  Lamb have information that day or the BBC who were interested in Thomas’s story. I know in my heart that if they had not gagged us again like that Thomas would be alive today as they wanted to go and get information over the next few days.

Thomas8

A week later Thomas was dead. A secret trip by a senior, and in my view, vengeful local authority officer to the court resulted in me being gagged again. I was unable to get to the people who could do something to help, and that cost Thomas his life. It was under the pretext of being in his best interests that the application to silence me was made. But it was because I criticised them for failing to look after my son properly and commissioning such appalling services. But all of those in power change their stories and have no accountability.

Thomas11

It was snowing the week Thomas died. The home told me not to go. They didn’t tell me how ill he really was. I set out and turned back because the snow was so bad.  I’ll never forgive myself. I can’t live with the knowledge that I left him there in their hands. I have read reports now before his inquest that I can’t  share or discuss yet. But I lie here alone in my flat desperate and guilty that the horror of his death was avoidable. It’s not something that time heals. It gnaws, twists, wrenches and possesses me in an agony that is indescribable. I post pictures of some crazy nights to make people think I’m ok but the craziness is all in me. I’m going mad with the pain and guilt of it all.

My boy, my vulnerable boy died alone without me. They immediately said it was natural causes but a lifetime of pain, separation, cocktails of drugs, sobbing to come home, pleading to see the Judge, fell on their cruel dispassionate ears and we, his family are left to tend his grave. I had to agree to turn off the life support system of the baby who I brought into this world and that I loved for every special bit of him.

Justice for my boy Thomas Rawnsley

 

Thomas10

A Request:

Thomas’s final pre-inquest hearing is in Sheffield at 11am on the 5th May. Paula would really appreciate as much support as we can gather. If you are free on that day and are able to attend, we know that Paula would really appreciate the support.

3 Days To Go

There’s three days to go until the launch of 7 Days of Action on the 18th and we thought it was a good time to remind ourselves why we are running the campaign.

Monday – Eden

IMG_0319

Tuesday – Jack

IMG_0570

Wednesday – Thomas

Thomas1

Thursday – Tianze

family  2

Friday – Chris

IMG_2525

Saturday – Robert

IMG-20160311-WA0010

Sunday – Stephen

image3

What Can You Do?

1. Share the stories. (On social media, verbally, send the links to people you know).

2. Sign the petitions.

3. Contact your local press and media.

4. Lobby your MPs.

5. Write to your local commissioners.

6. Discuss how we stop our family members being sent to ATUs.

7. Learn your MHA & MCA to stop this happening to your family members.

8. Support the families’ legal action

9. Can you offer lifts to families who have hundreds of miles to travel to visit their loved ones?

10. Can you offer overnight accommodation if you live near to any of the ATUs?

11. Lend your experience and ideas to the families.

12. Never forget. We are talking human lives.

Thank you for your support.

Life For A Learning Disabled Person 2016

Monday 18th April 2016 saw the start of a UK campaign to raise awareness of the thousands of learning disabled people currently being held against their wishes in assessment and treatment units. Often, these units are hundreds of miles from the person’s home. The average time spent in an ATU (assessment and treatment unit) is 5.5 years. The average cost per week for treatment in an ATU is £3500.

The campaign will be presenting a number of stories over the next week. Stories of people who have been trapped in their unit for years. Stories of people who have managed to be freed from their detention but still bear the scars of their experience and sadly, stories of people who have died whilst in the care of their unit.

We make no apologies that the stories are relentlessly bleak. Life in an ATU is relentlessly bleak. The stories are painful to read and you may feel like giving up on the blog. Please don’t. We feel it is important that the reality of Eden, Stephen, Tianze, Thomas, Joshua, Jack, Ryan, Connor, Eddie and Robert’s lives are heard.

They need you to hear their story.

Please check out the other pages of this blog. Watch and listen to the selection of ATU films and songs. Read a mother’s poetry. Check out Sam Sly’s plans for life outside an ATU. Absorb Chris Hatton’s ATU facts and figures and if you would like to contribute to the blog, please let us know.

And please, as the 7 Days of Action progresses and you read the stories, ask yourselves, what can I do to help these young people have the life they deserve.

Thank you.