My second week at home was much quieter. Just one date in my diary which was an interview with Tom Magna for Carers World Radio. Tom and I had a lively conversation talking about Oliver’s story and where things went drastically wrong. This resulted in Oliver losing his life in preventable and tragic circumstances. We discussed my petition asking for all healthcare professionals to receive mandatory training in Autism and Learning disability awareness. Tom was interested to hear that Oliver’s petition was successfully debated and the government have launched a consultation asking for everybody’s views on how the training should look.
My third week in the UK saw me catching a train into London early on a Monday morning to attend meetings with several different members of parliament. We talked about the progress of the mandatory training in autism and learning disability awareness for all NHS Staff. I asked Dan Scorer from Mencap Charity to support me during these meetings, which I am grateful he agreed to do.
Our first meeting of the day was with Chris Skidmore MP. Chris was Oliver’s local MP for Kingswood in Bristol. He spoke about Oliver during the debate and crucially he reminded all ministers that my son had a right to a life. Since this debate Chris and I have remained in contact, he is a passionate advocate of #Oliverscampaign and all it stands for.
We also discussed Oliver’s appalling Learning Disability Mortality Review investigations (LeDeR). Chris was incredibly concerned and assured us he would be keeping a close eye on things. We also chatted about the important work he is doing around mental health and supporting students in educational settings around Bristol. Chris is a true gentleman and I feel blessed to have his support.
The second meeting of the day was with Caroline Dineage (Health and Social Care Minister) Caroline, is a warm, personable woman who always manages to make me feel comfortable in her presence. Caroline is passionate about people who have autism and learning disabilities having excellent health care outcomes. She is making every effort to ensure that the LeDeR program is effective and fit for purpose. She was concerned to hear about the problems we are currently having with Oliver’s LeDeR and promised us that she would do everything in her power to make sure Oliver’s investigations were being looked at fairly, openly and honestly.
I am hoping to work alongside Caroline and NHS England to address the LeDeR program and how we can make it effective and fit for purpose so that real lessons can be learned. My meeting with Caroline was meant to last for 30 minutes but lasted for 70 minutes. I have no doubt that Caroline would have given up half her day to discuss Oliver’s LeDeR and the consultation for mandatory training for all NHSE staff in autism and learning disability awareness.
Dan and I didn’t have time to stop for lunch as we then had a meeting with Barbara Keeley MP. Barbara is a straight talking person who is passionate about our autistic and learning disabled community. I first met Barbara during Oliver’s debate in Parliament and I liked this straight talking no nonsense type of woman. She is sharp and gets to the root of a problem very quickly. Our meeting mirrored earlier conversations of that day. We left, feeling reassured that Barbara is supporting #Oliverscampaign, keeping a close eye on the training and Oliver’s Learning Disability Mortality Review investigation.
Our next meeting saw us visit the incredible Norman Lamb MP. I have wanted to meet Norman for quite some time due to the work he does for mental health and so many various issues to do with the most vulnerable people in our society. I was not disappointed; Norman is a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He was already aware of Oliver’s story and the government’s consultation on the mandatory training. He was very supportive of it and wanted to know how it was progressing and our next steps. Again we talked about Oliver’s LeDeR investigation and how crucial it was that LeDeR was fit for purpose. We discussed its purpose and ways in which it needed tightening up to make it effective. I walked away from this meeting knowing that Norman was listening and would continue to support Oliver’s Campaign.
Our final meeting of the day was with Baroness Hollins. I have met Baroness Hollins on a couple of occasions and she is an absolute joy to be around. She has worked tirelessly on behalf of people who have intellectual disabilities to ensure they are supported educationally, mentally and socially. Our meeting was to talk about Oliver’s Campaign and the Government Consultation. Baroness Hollins also attended Oliver’s debate in parliament and she is determined, alongside me and many others, that this training be fit for purpose in order for it to save lives.
After such a long but meaningful day, Dan and I were exhausted, meeting high profile ministers all wanting to make a difference for our autistic and learning disabled communities. I am grateful to every one of them for giving up their precious time.
The next day Dan and I met with Caron Heyes and Catriona Filmer from Fieldfisher Law Firm. We were to meet with Ray James and Emily Handley to discuss how to proceed with Oliver’s LeDeR investigation and the failings and interferences surrounding It was a difficult long drawn out meeting . Ray and Emily listened to our concerns. I truly believe that NHS England wants to see the LeDeR program succeed and will do what is required to make that happen. I would also like to add that Caron and Catriona are representing us on a Pro Bono basis; this is something that Fieldfisher do for many families and charities. We are incredibly grateful to have their support.
Dan and I hotfooted it from the meeting to be interviewed live on Women’s Radio Station with the truly inspirational Anna Kennedy OBE. We talked about everything from the problems with Transforming Care and the horrors of ATUs (autistic treatment units) to Oliver’s Campaign and where we are with the consultation and training. This interview lasted a whole hour, some may think it would be intimidating; however, Anna is so down to Earth and easy to talk to that she enabled to conversation to flow.
This week has been exiting, interesting and also positive with several high profile ministers showing their support.
Next week, I have some free time to spend with my parents just doing what normal families do. I will be grateful for this short rest before my adventures continue On The Road Sharing Oliver’s Story.