This is the speech of Leslie Lancett, to Swindon Borough Council last Thursday, in support of a petition opposing closure of the Day Care Centre One Step Ahead.
My name is Leslie Lancett. I am accompanied this evening by my wife Christine, and Bethan Vaughan, a service user at One Step Ahead, South Marston. We are here this evening to speak on behalf of the service users of One Step Ahead.
One Step Ahead provides day opportunities for adults who have varying degrees of learning disability. They are open Monday-Friday 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. One Step Ahead aim to support people to embrace life’s challenges in order to lead full, rewarding and healthy lives, through offering a person centred service full of opportunities which promote self esteem, self worth, respect for self and others, personal success, positive feelings, participation, trying new things, pleasure and awareness.
The service users comprise adults ranging from moderate to severe learning disabilities.
Over 2,400 people signed the petition to keep One Step Ahead open and operating. Most were aghast that Swindon Borough Council could ever contemplate closing such a vital amenity for people far less capable than ourselves.
The service users come in all shapes, sizes and abilities but the one thing they all have in common is the safety and security of One Step Ahead, where individual needs are administered by experienced and caring staff. Every one of them loves the place; it’s a home from home where each can have a little independence under loving and caring guidance and supervision. Also we the carers and parents have the satisfaction of knowing that they are being well cared for in a safe and happy environment.
We have a disabled daughter, Jolene, with severe learning disability and some lesser physical disability. We are her full time carers. Yes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and to date for 33 years. We are now getting quite good at it. For us, in common with most carers, there’s no going home at the end of the day and leaving our responsibility behind. Ther’re with us 24 hours a day, every day.
Jolene has been a service user at One Step Ahead for well over 12 years now. She is a lady with many complex issues, as are most of the service users. One Step Ahead gives us, her carers, a little respite for a few hours, four days most weeks. Without the input of One Step Ahead we in common with most all of the carers would find it even more difficult, almost impossible, to cope with the excessive demands put upon us.
We don’t do it because it’s our job. We certainly don’t do it for the financial rewards, there aren’t any. We do it because we care. We are often driven to the point of total exasperation and exhaustion.
One Step Ahead for both the service users and the carers alike is a lifeline.
A lifeline that we desperately need.
A lifeline that we can rely on.
A lifeline that we greatly appreciate.
A lifeline, I’m sure, that helps us maintain our sanity.
Mr Cameron is insisting times are hard and that everyone must accept a share of the pain. We say to you Mr Cameron, we already accept far more than our fair share of the pain.
Neither the disabled or their carers were the cause of this problem. That was caused by greedy bankers and inept politicians, of all persuasions. Many of whom, I might add, live in a safe, cosseted world.
Disabled adults, more so even that disabled children, are often pillories, abused, ignored and stigmatised, not only by society at large, but sometimes even by members of their own families. One Step Ahead helps them to cope with some of this prejudice by promoting self esteem, self worth, confidence and awareness.
Most of the carers insist that their wards blossomed after their introduction into One Step Ahead. We know Jolene did.
To close One Step Ahead would be disastrous for both the service users and carers alike.
We invite you to change places , not with one of the disabled service users, but one of the full-time carers. Not for 33 years, not even for a year, but for just one month as a 24 hour a day full-time carer. You would soon learn what it is like to live in our/their real world. Believe me! By the end of the month you would be as adamant as we are that One Step Ahead must stay where it is, as it is.
The more able service users at One Step Ahead are adamant that they do not want to be amalgamated with any other centre or facility. They want what they know, what they in their own way understand and what they love and cherish. Not much to ask from us who have much richer and more fulfilled lives, is it?
They don’t have the ability to stand their own ground. They don’t have a union to fight for them. They have to rely on us, their carers, and of course, One Step Ahead staff. We don’t always get it right. We’re only human. But we do play our part to the full.
This person centred service, One Step Ahead to you and me is far more important, more necessary, more vital to the disabled adults that use it, to their carers and to society in general than mere money or the saving thereof.
Thus I beg you, be true to them, to us, to yourselves. Show understanding, compassion, search your hearts and your conscience’s. Make it your priority, no, your duty, to ensure that One Step Ahead remains where it is and as it is.