My brother James is 25 years old and has Down's Syndrome. He lives in a normal house with another person who also has learning disabilities. They are able to live there because they receive support that allows them to live as independent and fulfilling lives as possible. James is finally settled and has a home that is his. Now all this is being taken away from him.
This month James was served with an eviction notice. My parents have been informed that due to budget cuts to the care agency that look after him, James will no longer get the support he needs to live in his home and will have to leave.
James struggles to deal with change. He has been living in his current house for 15 months and it has taken him almost this length of time to settle in and call it his home. James will never be able to live completely independently as he would not be safe to do so. He requires help on a daily basis to take medication and assist him to do basic things like washing clothes and cooking his food. If there was a fire or an accident James would not know how to cope. He needs the 24-hour support.
He also likes his own space in a quiet environment, anything too noisy makes him very anxious. This means that living with another person with learning disabilities while being supported through the day and overnight allows him a good balance between living independently and living a healthy life. He is happy, secure and safe.
However the council are now cutting the budgets given to care services and the agency that gives James the 24-hour support he needs is being forced to take it away. It means that as of 1 December my brother James is going to be made homeless.
His needs have not changed but Oxfordshire County Council has to make £61m of budget cuts and this means that the most vulnerable people in society are beginning to suffer. Yet about £7m of Oxfordshire's public money is still tied up in Icelandic banks almost five years after they collapsed.
This is not just about James; it’s about all those vulnerable people in society who cannot stand up for themselves and make their voices heard. James is just one of many who will be affected by this callous change in funding.
We know of other people with learning disabilities who have no parents or close families that can help them fight to stay in the only place they know as home. These people will be forced into services that may not suit their needs, where they don’t feel safe and secure, where they feel unsettled and anxious and out of place but these places are cheaper for the council to sustain.
No-one deserves this but this is what we are pushing our most vulnerable members of society towards. We are not making progress for those people who in past generations would have been placed in institutions; their plight is still just as hidden as councils brush these changes under the carpet under the guise of “saving money while at the same time creating better outcomes for service users”. My brother is not a "service user"; he is a person who has a home that he loves and wants to stay in.
James has not had a choice and has not been in control as to what happens to him.
Sign this petition and tell Oxfordshire County Council not to make people with learning disabilities homeless.
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