- If the person’s reason for placement in a home was primarily a health need, then the NHS is responsible for funding the whole package;
- Local social services are only responsible for care which is “merely incidental or ancillary to the provision of the accommodation”.
Professor Clements debunked these ideas, citing the Coughlan criteria to show that they are not legally correct. That he did so made Mr Burns’ tale all the more moving. This is a man whose circumstances are heart-rending and far from unique. He was forced, through lack of any alternative, to live in institutional care – which understandably he regarded as akin to prison. He missed family life, the benefits of which so many of us take for granted. Mr Burns missed anniversary celebrations and seeing his sons grow up, and all at a time when he was in most need of family support.
Throughout, he had to try to come to terms with a tragic water sports accident which had left him paralysed and without sensation from the neck down. He brought himself, his wife and his audience to the brink of tears as he so spoke so courageously.
I’m glad I was able to attend yesterday’s AGM. In some ways, it was depressing – the neglect of SCI people and the systemic failure to provide properly for their needs is terrible – and yet I emerged feeling inspired by Mr Burns’ courage. I hope that other people will join me in pressing for a higher standard of care in this area. As a society, we can and must do better.