I'll warn you in advance this isn't the wittiest blog I've ever written but it might just be the most important one. It's also the first blog I've written that isn't about my son, but about someone elses.
Connor Sparrowhawk was eighteen years of age. And the great tragedy in this story is right there in the use of the past tense. Connor, or Laughing Boy (LB) as he was known, drowned in an unsupervised bath in an NHS Treatment and Assessment Centre in 2013. Connor had autism and epilepsy. That's right, in the year 2013 a young man with epilepsy had a bath unsupervised and drowned in a "care" facility. So completely wrong and indefensible that it's hard to comprehend.
Earlier this year an independent report found that Connor's death was preventable, and that there were significant failings in his care and treatment. Two months after Connor's death, a separate Care Quality Commission found the unit to be inadequate in all 10 measures of assessment. I could go on, but you get the picture... A brilliant young life was taken so unnecessarily.
I suppose the greatest tragedy in all this is that the lack of care and compassion shown to Connor isn't unique. You only have to read Mark Neary's brilliant blog to discover the treatment his son Stephen endured in a similar unit. There's the story of Josh Willis being treated 500 miles away from his family, or Claire Dyer who professionals want to move 4 hours away from her home. Tragically, the list goes on.
Connor was in the unit for 107 days before he died. And so earlier this year a campaign called #107days was formed. In the words of the campaign: "we want to harness the energy, support and outrage that has emerged in response to LB’s death and ensure that lasting changes and improvements are made."
Numerous people and organisations have adopted a different day of the campaign, and today I've adopted Day 57. Tonight I'm performing a show at the Kenton Theatre in Henley that is dedicated to Connor. I'll share his story, the video below will be played and when his brilliant face fills the big screen the audience will be in no doubt as to why he was called Laughing Boy. I'll donate my fee for the night and sell his postcards in the interval and generally pester and badger people like a great big pain in the arse to get involved and ensure they shout Connor's name across the rooftops as they leave into the night.
Connor Sparrowhawk - LB 'Laughing Boy'
I'd love for readers of this blog to get involved too. I'll add the ways to support the campaign on social media below. And there's also the postcards I mentioned earlier. But above all else, if you can only manage one thing please let's keep talking of Connor Sparrowhawk for a long, long time to come. Make a point of telling someone Connor's story today. Set up reminders on your telephones 1, 5, 10, 20 years from now to keep his memory alive. Let's ensure his legacy is to lead to lasting change for the young people and adults that follow. Let's keep saying his name.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.