Yesterday evening I read this article about a care facility in Greece for children with learning, and other disabilities.
If you haven’t read it, please do.
This is one home in Greece for up to 60 children, where one nurse and one assistant are responsible for the care of up to 20 residents. In order to help them to manage, the children are placed in caged beds – in order to give them more freedom, because before the beds were caged, the children were tied to them, and medicated. There are more.
According to the report, the director of the centre has not been paid for almost a year.
A local doctor, who volunteers at the centre, feels that it is a great place for these children, because they have ‘lasted much longer than their average life expectancy.’
In the same district, there is a state of the art centre designed for people with learning disabilities to live with dignity and independence, but it remains empty, unoccupied because there is no money in the Greek state to pay for staff.
I know that there is a long, long history of thought in Greece that holds physical and mental perfection as the goal to which we all aspire. I know that these ideals, these modes of thought still influence us today. I also know that there is something different, culturally speaking, when I read that more than two thirds of the children existing in these cages have been abandoned by their families.
I believe it is the mark of a civilised society, not that you can show off how great you are, how intelligent, how handsome, how strong, or how well you can compete against your rivals, but in how you care for your weak, your poor, your defenceless and your disabled.
This story might not have mattered so much to me if I didn’t have a son with profound learning disabilities. This story might not have cut me so deep if, when he was born and diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, someone hadn’t suggested that I might give him away.
But this story does matter, and it echoes through our own culture, our own way of caring for these most vulnerable of people.
In an age of austerity, of cuts to services to the vulnerable, of little training and less pay or status for those who care, what will we do?