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Abingdon mum tells of ordeal of separation from son sent into care in Gloucester
WHEN Jean Davis’s son was sent to a Gloucester residential home for people with learning disabilities, many thought it was the break she needed.
But Mrs Davis, 70, says every day is an ordeal to be separated from Kevin, 45.
She is among Oxfordshire residents highlighted in a report that raises concern about care for people with learning disabilities, including placements outside the county.
Latest figures, for the end of March, show 165 out of 285 Oxfordshire County Council-funded places for people with learning disabilities are outside the county.
The Abingdon resident said: “It's devastating. My whole life was Kevin. I have a daughter and grand-daughter but Kevin was with me 24/7. He was my life.
“Then Kevin had a breakdown and was taken into care and people said, ‘you have a life now’.
“I said ‘I have always had a life now. Kevin was my life and still is my life but I have a different life outside of Kevin’.
“I communicate with Kevin every day and see him every weekend.”
Mrs Davis, a single parent, said they had a “normal life” until 10 years ago when her son had a mental breakdown.
He was sectioned and stayed at Oxford’s Warneford Hospital for 10 days, and then a secure private hospital in Norfolk 13 hours’ drive away.
Her son returned to Oxfordshire after a year, staying in the NHS secure unit at Slade House, Headington, where she visited twice a week. He moved to an Abingdon residential home for four years but was moved to Gloucester after assaulting a member of staff.
Mrs Davis, who faces an 11-hour bus and train journey to see her son, said: “They need more facilities so people don’t have to go so far away from home and they need to consider our opinion as well as their own.”
The Oxfordshire Family Support Network report was “deeply concerned” about the lack of residential care for young people with learning disabilities under 25.
The report, commissioned by Healthwatch Oxfordshire, said: “They should not have to travel to locations like Norfolk, far from their families.”
Author Jan Sunman said: “It is not just young people, there are still not a lot of alternatives to secure units that are a long way away from home.
“People can go into the community with the right support to live in an ordinary house with the right help. We should be aiming for that.”
The report was dedicated to Connor Sparrowhawk, 18, who drowned in a bath at Slade House last July.
An independent probe found his death could have been prevented by more frequent bath checks than every 15 minutes and better assessment of his care.
County council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said the council was reviewing learning disabilities but could not discuss individual cases.
He said: “We do try to commission new placements near to a person’s family if this is what the client wishes, taking into account several factors, including availability of the service that is required.”
Some were outside Oxfordshire but closer to their home town than a county facility, he said, while others were outside the county but close to family.
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