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shocking images mean I'll keep my son at home

That's it. Tom's staying with me.

My son has autism and his intellectual disability is not severe. But he will never live independently.

And after watching Prime Time last night, I reckon that means he stays with me.

I've been dressed down plenty of times for seeking to protect my teenage son too much.

I won't last forever. I'll be checking out when Tom's middle-aged and he'll probably go on for decades after I'm gone.

KICKED

I don't want to think about it. I don't want to wish my son dead if and when I face serious illness myself.

But I don't trust a stranger to keep him safe. Not after seeing what happened to the innocent victims in Bungalow 3 of Aras Attracta in Swinford, Co Mayo.

Elderly Mary Maloney had her arm pinned down while a beaker was forced into her mouth. Ivy McGinty (53) was pinched, prodded and kicked by staff

Mary Garvan (65) was pulled into her chair by her trousers and threatened with isolation in a cold porch if she got out of her chair.

I feel so desperately sorry for these women's families. They will be wondering what was really happening behind the walls of the "care" home down the years.

The HSE is putting in new procedures. It is even considering going under-cover like a Prime Time team.

A few instances of abuse may be uncovered. Others may be stopped by the fear factor.

But even if all instances of abuse were detected, that's not enough for the families of the intellectually disabled.

They want more for their loved-ones than their physical safety.

They want care. They even want love. You can't legislate for that. You can check the credentials of a care worker but you can't make them care.

That's why it's Government policy to close down the country's residential homes for the intellectually disabled and replace them with care "in the community."

The idea is that these members of our society should live independently when possible, and when it's not possible, that they should be cared for by their families or loving foster families.

That they should be cared for by people who love them, not by people paid to care.

That's a great idea, isn't it? But the problem is no-one has the faintest idea how it's going to be done.

No-one has even worked out what supports you'd need to put in place for families and how they would be paid for.

And that's why a grand total of 100 of the 4,000 disabled adults in residential care have been moved out of care homes this year.

It's just not happening.

And the few "homes from home" which exist out there - like the wonderful Camphill communities - are struggling for survival.

So thousands of families like mine face a stark choice: beg for a place for your loved-one somewhere he will be cared for by strangers who are in it for their pay cheque.

ABUSERS

Or keep him at home, with little or no support from anyone.

I know which I'm choosing.

The only abusers Tom's worried about right now are wolves and grizzly bears and dinosaurs.

And that's the only abusers he's ever going to have to worry about, if I can help it.

"I feel so snuggly", he said, as he climbed into bed with me yesterday. "No-one can hurt me in my own house."

"You're right, Tom", I said. "You're safe. And you're always going to be safe here with me."

hnews@herald.ie


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