Four months ago, on a trip to Newman University with the Justice Quilt, the blog editors of Vulnerability 360 asked me to write a guest blog post; say what you like they said, you’re welcome to rant they said – a hard invitation to turn down, and yet one that has taken me until now to take up.
One of the reasons for this delay is that our feet have barely touched the ground in the virtual Justice Shed since that promise was made and we continue to seek Justice for LB, and this is what this post is about.
Who was LB?
LB is short for Laughing Boy, the name used online for Connor Sparrowhawk. Connor was a fit and healthy young man who loved buses, London, Eddie Stobart and speaking his mind.
Connor had autism and epilepsy. On the 19 March 2013 he was admitted to hospital, the Slade House Assessment and Treatment Unit run by Southern House NHS Foundation Trust.
What happened to LB?
Two years ago last weekend, on 4 July 2013, LB died. He suffered a horrible, brutal death drowning in the bath while under the ‘care’ of Southern Health.
The Trust initially attributed his death to ‘natural causes’. How does that even happen? Since when was drowning a natural cause? A damning independent investigation by Verita, demanded by LB’s family, concluded that his death was entirely preventable.
Why the campaign for justice?
You tell me!
To my mind it’s fairly obvious what happened. There is no doubt that LB drowned in the bath. There is also no doubt that anyone with epilepsy should not be left to bathe alone.
To quote Tommy, a Trustee of Oxford self-advocacy organisation My Life My Choice ‘It isn’t rocket science’.
In such a cut and dry situation I’d have thought the Trust would wholeheartedly apologise, compensate the family and do everything in their power to improve provision in their ‘care’ and learn from what happened.
Not Southern Health. They repeatedly claim that LB’s death was natural causes, they’ve said as much to LB’s family, to their Board and most recently to the Coroner at a pre-inquest meeting. Who incidentally gave them short shrift at the ridiculousness of this suggestion.
Since LB’s death our focus has been on drawing attention to what happened. Unusually for the death of a learning disabled person, what happened to LB has been reported in the mainstream press (Guardian and BBC Newsnight). It is also the focus of numerous investigations, including the Police, Health and Safety Executive, the Coroner, the GMC, Verita (a second report) and Mazars. You can read what these are about and where they’ve got to in this blog post by LB’s mum, Sara Ryan.
In a nutshell, two years after LB’s death the official channels for justice are progressing at a snails pace. If they are really progressing at all. I suppose only time will tell.
Meanwhile in an alternative universe where able-bodied young people are harmed Alton Towers step in, admit liability, offer compensation and say sorry, like their business depends on it. Shame the same can’t be said for NHS Foundation Trusts, but I digress.
What has the campaign achieved so far?
The campaign for #JusticeforLB has an ambitious agenda, you can read what we’re seeking to achieve here.
While the judicial systems and processes seem to have taken two years to not get very far at all, trapping LB’s family in a perverse tortuous liminal space, the campaign has made some progress.
In February we published an audit report, timed to coincide with the National Audit Office report on progress in learning disability services. It covers what we achieved by then and is somewhat promising, especially when you read what difference people tell us the campaign has made to them (go on, take a peak, pages 22 and 23).
Since then, as a result of phenomenal campaigning from LB’s family and friends, and our organic evolving online community that is #JusticeforLB, we have continued to make a noise. We are determined that LB’s death will not be in vain, that the issue of the appalling treatment of learning disabled people will not be brushed aside.
We have petitioned over half the MPs in Westminster about the LBBill, a proposed private members Bill to change the law and improve things for disabled people. The draft of the Bill has been coproduced and crowdsourced with disabled people and while we’ve not been successful in the 2015 Private Members Bill ballot we’ll keep going for next year.
Our ideas have also been incorporated into two consultations. The first a Green Paper from the Department of Health: No voice unheard, no right ignored exploring support for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems. The second is a consultation on mental capacity law and deprivation of liberty safeguards from the Law Commission.
We have also run our #107days campaign for a second time. This year weeks where themed and discussion and actions explored areas like listening to families, changing the law, the Justice Quilt, art and activism, inquiries, saying sorry and much, much more. Swing by the blog to learn more and join the discussion.
The Tale of Laughing Boy
The 107days campaign ended this year with the premiere and launch of The Tale of Laughing Boy.
Young people with learning disabilities from My Life My Choice worked in partnership with LB’s family to produce this short film of Connor’s life. It uses home video footage and interviews with LB’s family and friends and the views of young people about his death. It also includes insights and recommendations for positive change, that those in authority could do well to listen to.
The film could not have been made without the incredible and generous contribution of Oxford Digital Media who gave their time and expertise freely. My Life My Choice were supported financially by Comic Relief and Oxford City Council to make the film.
How do I get involved?
You can support the #JusticeforLB campaign by raising awareness of what happened, or by making a financial contribution (details of how to do this are here).
Justice for LB Campaigner