The Gloves are Off, Pal

Ignoring the Problem

It took me a whole decade to get anyone in the government to listen to my ordeal with disabled parent discrimination and during that 10 years, the discrimination and humiliation kept on happening. The first MP I wrote to just ignored me but I knew she got my letters because I received a Christmas card from her, proving she knew my address and must have received my communications.

I wrote to another two MP's after she left office and got the same response - a great big sack of nothing. In desperation, I wrote to a third MP outside my area and this time was told that she would love to help me but she wasn't allowed to as I wasn't in her area.

I wrote to the European Court of Human Rights, begging for their assistance but was told they couldn't help me without me first being represented by my MP - not explaining what to do if your succession of MP's ignore you.

Finally a long and frustrating 10 years later I found an MP in a nearby town who was interested in helping me and did write back! I was jubilant, a major hurdle crossed, I might finally get my voice - and the voices of disabled parents everywhere.- across to those in power who don't care about ordinary people, and especially not disabled people. My feeling of elation was shortlived, however, when I realised the MP herself had to get the support of someone higher up, so the cycle of writing to people and being ignored began again. More than a year later, we hadn't received anymore than dead end referrals to other people who might (but didn't) help.

Yawn - Parliament, You're Getting Boring!

All Talk, No Action?

I began writing letters again, in addition to those sent by the MP and contacted Baroness Deech, a member of the House of Lords who had commented on how the Equality Act 2010 was simply not being followed in many instances.

According to the parliament website, she said:

" Over the course of our inquiry we have been struck by how disabled people are let down across the whole spectrum of life. "Access to public buildings remains an unnecessary challenge to disabled people. Public authorities can easily side-step their legal obligations to disabled people, and recent changes in the courts have led to disabled people finding it harder to fight discrimination. ..."

In my communication with her, I pointed out that she had missed out one vital area in the life of a disabled person - that of family and parenthood. I implored her, as a supposed champion of disabled person's rights and reforms to the Equality Act, to do something meaningful and help me change the law and stop disabled parent discrimination. Her response was this:

" I used to teach family law, so I understand the dilemma you describe. From my knowledge, a change in the law would not help. The Human Rights Act gives everyone the right to a family and private life, including of course disabled persons under Art.14. So that is the law. But it is balanced against English children law, which says that the welfare of the child is paramount. So each decision is on a case by case basis, looking at the child in question. There is nothing to be gained from changing the law, as it is already against discrimination. You should continue publicising your difficulties so that there is more understanding."

She's wrong of course, as it is perfectly legal to have disability as a reason for termination of parental rights and this happens all the time. It's also legal to question someone repeatedly about their disability and force them to accept interventions they don't want or remove their child under 'welfare of the child' principles, meaning a disabled parent will be lucky if they can have a family life at all, never mind a private one. Courts also routinely see disability as a parental weakness like drug addiction or alcoholism and are legally allowed to take custody away or limit it on the basis of 'welfare of the child' so they are given a green light to discriminate all they like, no matter what the Human Rights Act says. Until the Equality Act is added to, this will keep happening.

The Start of the Legal Journey

I was furious that the only reply I received was a brush off, so I decided not to play nice anymore. Enough letter writing. It clearly doesn't work. I decided to use the law against the government in the same way they permit it to be used against disabled parents. The gloves are well and truly off. If they will not respond to their constituents who highlight serious human rights violations, then maybe they will be forced to respond with a solicitors letter and a looming lawsuit.

The issues aren't going to go away, so neither am I and if that means playing hard ball, then so be it.

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