This Christmas being 'in control' has more meaning than ever.
December is a time when we are constantly reminded how it could
have been very different. In fact, it was only 3 years ago this
week I was shown the welfare deputyship application that the
council had submitted to the Court of Protection.
At the time, they had held my son Steven for a year in a
positive behaviour unit and its plan was that he should not return
home but be moved to a hospital in Wales, over 100 miles away,
under section. Steven has autism. Thankfully, three weeks later the
judge lifted the deprivation of liberty authorisation that the
council had used to keep him in the unit and ordered that he return
home straightaway. Six months later, at the judicial enquiry, the
judge commentated that if the council had got their way, "Steven
would have faced a life in public care that he does not want and
does not need".
And this year we can safely say that Steven is more 'in control'
than ever. Four weeks ago, Steven was allocated his first home of
his own - a lovely two bedroom house in the perfect location for
him - near to his extended family and close to all the places he
goes to during the week. I am classified as his live in carer but
when the time comes when I am no longer around or unable to care
for him, Steven will have the security of his own home.
He has come a long way in those three years. But every day, as
he gets on with his life, there are constant reminders of what
might have been. In their court application, the council proposed
that his contact with me and his family and friends would be "by
remote access, such as a webcam facility". I still shudder when I
imagine how Steven might have coped if the relationships that give
him the most meaning were reduced to a pre-arranged internet
This year we can celebrate the life he has fashioned for himself
- being very much 'in control' - and the constant ache that it may
have all been taken from him through the actions of a risk adverse
On Mondays Steven goes to the local Arts centre where I have my
counselling practice. He uses the music room and has a sing song
and plays piano and guitar with his support worker. On the first
day he made friends with Raj, who teaches Art in the next room.
Every week, they have lovely conversations about music and Steven's
interests and Steven now looks upon Raj as a good friend. Raj asked
Steven if he wanted a painting for Christmas and Steven immediately
replied that he would like a painting of Whistler's Mother - this
is a nod to Steven's hero Mr Bean's trip to America. And so it
happened that on Christmas Day, we'll be eating our lunch, with
that "hideous old bat" watching over us. Steven would never have
met Raj if he'd been sent to Wales.
On Tuesdays, Steven goes to a swimming pool and has made two
good friends there; Tyler and Dee. They chat about Take That and
Countdown and the guys cheer Steven on as he does his lengths of
the pool. One of the support workers told the guys about the plans
of 2010 and they were horrified. Dee doesn't have a webcam, so that
relationship would have been lost if he'd been sent to Wales.
This afternoon, Steven was crying with laughter as he and his
support worker shared their familiar joke that Cliff Richard is
really called Chip Richard and sings "Smelly Toes and Wine". The
set up to that important moment could never happen online.
I could go on. Valuable relationships would have been lost
forever. Steven can't converse to order, so the "webcam facility"
would have been a terrible strain. And his relationship with me,
that is so important to both of us, would have been fatally
damaged. I shiver about that when we sit in his new living room
discussing why Basil Faulty hid a kipper in his cardigan.
Christmas brings these feelings to the fore. Not just because of
the anniversary but I remember a conversation with the solicitor
prior to the court case when he asked me to consider the worst case
scenario. That would have meant pitching up at a B&B on
Christmas Eve and turning up at the hospital on Christmas Day and
opening presents on a cold ward. Perhaps a few Skype messages from
his Uncle and friends. This year, Steven is planning a Mr Bean.
Abba and Pringles day and thankfully, he is allowed those choices
because he has his independence.
So this year we are celebrating that Steven gained the right to
be 'in control' not just this Christmas but every Christmas Day to
This blog has been adapted with permission from Mark Neary from
the blog '3 Years' first published on 'Authors of our lives'. Visit
to view this article.