By Lisa Mulholland
Dear Prime Minister
I feel compelled to give you an insight into how austerity has affected my family.
Tonight, I sit here in despair, anxious about tomorrow and what the day will bring. I wonder what battles I will have to fight tomorrow to ensure that the eldest of my three children has access to a service that everyone is entitled to; an adequate education.
What strings am I going to have to pull tomorrow?
How on earth am I going to manipulate the system this week, just to get a fair chance at a place at a school that meets his needs, or to get access to mental health service, or health service for that matter?
I wonder what tactics I’m going to have to resort to this week. Yes. This week. The overwhelming challenges change weekly. These are the things that are going to keep me awake tonight.
You see, my 11-year-old son is high functioning autistic. He also has ADHD, dyspraxia and some possible mental health issues. He is what the paediatricians would call ‘complex’.
They have a 2-year waiting list just to diagnose a child with autism. I know this because my youngest child is on that waiting list. It’s a pretty confusing place to be, pretty desolate, pretty frustrating. Not at all pretty really.
My eldest needs to be treated by CAMHS. But In some parts of Kent there is a 5-month waiting list for children or teenagers that need ‘urgent’ treatment. By urgent I mean suicidal. I know this because the poor receptionist at CAMHS has told me so. She must deal with many desperate parents daily.
I am lucky that I have only waited 8 weeks for my ‘urgent’ referral to CAMHS. So here I am, feeling lucky. Waiting for the paediatrician to plead with CAMHS to treat my anxious son. They are overstretched and are trying to pass my son onto the paediatric services. So, they are now in a battle, and my son is piggy in the middle.
Even after referrals from the ADHD nurse, GP and a paediatrician working the night shift at A and E (yes, we ended up in A &E when his panic attack prevented him from being able to breathe) we have waited and the problem has escalated.
He cannot leave the house without having a panic attack. The only school that is suitable and can possibly meet his needs also have a long and difficult history and they are wary of taking him on. The children that attend that school are very vulnerable and have also been pushed from pillar to post. Getting a place in a specialist school, especially this one, is not straightforward.
You see their funding was cut last year and they were to be closed permanently. They were saved at the last minute but they are now under very high pressure to perform better and stay open. Can they afford to waste a precious place on my son who might not be able to manage there?
Tomorrow my anxious, autistic son who desperately wants to go to school, who desperately wants to go to university, must swallow his anxiety, crush all his fears, put two failed school placements behind him and go and spend a day at this school (without the promise of a place).
He must try his utmost best to convince them that he fits their criteria. I know they do not want him there. I haven’t told him this. I have had to give him many pep talks tonight. We have had tears, self -harm and panic attacks and the night is only just beginning.
I know I won’t sleep. He may wake several times with night terrors tonight. Who knows what will happen.
Nevertheless, I will get up in the morning and pray he holds it together long enough for them to see that he is worth teaching. I will then come home and call CAMHS and plead with them to treat my son for this anxiety that is preventing him from leaving the house and getting an education.
It isn’t CAMHS fault, it isn’t the Schools’ fault, it isn’t the local authorities fault and it is not the paediatricians’ fault.
Who is to blame?
It isn’t my son.
It isn’t me.
I did not ask to have an autistic child in a time where services are on their knees and schools cannot cope with children like mine. Where funding for schools, and all NHS Services have been slashed. Who would have imagined services in the 6th richest nation in the world would get this bad?
Crippling cuts to services under the guise of a false ‘austerity’ is not the way forward. It is merely an ideological tool that suits your agenda but not ours.
But it’s not YOUR money to spend as you see fit!! We have paid for services via tax and national insurance and we aren’t receiving them. It is OUR money and we deserve the services we pay for.
You represent us, you work for us. You cannot do that without understanding us, the people.
Democracy is supposed to be “For the People, Of the People and By the People”.
A mum, a voter, a volunteer, a campaigner.
Lisa’s letter attracted the attention of the BBC and eventually her letter was read out to the Director Of CAMHS. To find out what happened next please click here: