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The PM as MP: David Cameron meets young man with Down's syndrome in his constituency served an eviction notice because of social care cuts

Posted by Administrator on 10/21/2013 to Down syndrome

As far as James Sleight is concerned the man he will meet tomorrow morning at the office in Witney is just a family friend. Even if he did know the name of David Cameron it is unlikely it would mean a great deal to him.

Born with Down's syndrome, the first 25 years of James's life have been, by his family's admission, "a battle". He attended a mainstream school and then a residential college before studying for an apprenticeship - his parents fighting at every stage to achieve the goal of his living independently although he will always need some support.

Sixteen months ago that dream came true when he moved into a three-bedroom house close to his family and all his friends in the Oxfordshire town where Mr Cameron is MP.

As well as having a housemate his own age also with a learning disability, he has 24-hour care helping him take medication, cook, clean and generally providing a reassuring presence. It has taken nearly the entire time he has been there for James to get used to his new home but now he is settled and happy.

But less than three weeks ago his parents received an eviction notice telling them he will no longer get the support he needs and must vacate the property by the end of November. According to his family, James has fallen victim to a £28m cut in the adult social care budget of Conservative-led Oxfordshire County Council.

His sister Alana Inness posted a petition on the website of change.org, calling for justice for James and begging for him not to lose his home. After going viral on Twitter it has now gathered more than 120,000 signatures - including comedians Frankie Boyle and Rory Bremner - enough to bring it to the attention of his local MP.

"James wouldn't understand who David Cameron was - he would not have a clue," said Ms Inness. "He has had brilliant care. My parents are of an age where they would be able to cope but that will not always be the case. As he gets older it is important that he has his own life and is made independent," she said.

One option was to allow James to stay on at the house but without a night time carer but the family feel that he would be unable to cope with an emergency such as a fire or falling ill without someone there.

Apart from his severe learning disability, James is pretty much like any young man. He likes to go down to the local pub and play pool and enjoys 10 pin bowling.

"Most 25-year-olds don't want to share a community with people in their 50s. It is important he is with people with whom he has something in common. We haven't told him anything. It would cause him uncertainty and anxiety and we don't want that to affect him. But we don't have an awful amount of time to put something in place," Ms Inness said.

The family say the meeting with the Prime Minister is not just about James but thousands of others like him are facing the raw edge of austerity. Like every other local authority Oxfordshire County Council has been forced into making some severe choices as a result of a 12 per cent cut in its Government grant.

It has set a 1.99 per cent council tax rise but must still find another £73m in savings between now and 2017 - this is on top of £92m already cut in the past two years. According to official figures the council spends £23m supporting about 3,000 people living in their own homes - half the amount is spends supporting 1,600 people in care homes.

"Moving away from putting people into care homes and supporting them in their own homes is how the council can make efficiency savings rather than cuts," it said around the time of announcing its latest budget.

James pays for his care out of his own personal allowance but is reliant on an agency to provide the support he needs. However, the agency has suffered a cut in the budget it receives and is now unable to provide adequate support at James's home or another property where his friends live nearby.

A spokesman for the council said it was aware of the petition. "We are currently looking into his case and working hard to make sure James continues to get the care he needs. There is no question that anyone in our care would ever be left homeless," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron said he was looking forward to meeting James and his parents and promised to look into their case more closely. "I am grateful to Mr and Mrs Sleight for taking the time to get in touch with me," he said.

Story Written by Johnathan Brown



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