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Marriage Lines

February 9, 2013

It’s been a funny old week for marriage. We’ve had the fabulous equal marriage vote in the Commons (and if it starts the implosion of the Tories, all the better). But apart from that, I’ve been thinking of the very narrow thinking of the State about marriage. Three different stories have made me think:

First off is the stories that have been emerging about the hateful bedroom tax. ITV News have been running a series of articles about how people will be affected and this particular story I found particularly harrowing:

As the woman has cerebral palsy, she tends to move around a lot in the night and has spasms, so her obviously devoted husband and carer sleeps in the 2nd bedroom most nights. However, the simplistic bedroom tax rules sees a married couple and rules that they are only allowed one bedroom; they will be charged for the second one that the husband sleeps in. I have it on good authority that the Queen and Prince Phillip have separate beds but then I don’t suppose the bedroom tax applies to them. Basic rule 1: married couple = 1 bed in 1 bedroom. End of.

Second story is my own. I’ve written at length about my housing benefit situation that is now going to appeal. It all hinges on the very narrow definition of “wife” and “family”. Although I still care deeply for my wife and we are only apart because it is in Steven’s best interests to be apart, we are no longer considered husband and wife because we live apart. Similarly, Steven is not counted as a member of my family as he is over 18 and seen as independent. Obviously he is financially dependent but that is where his dependence ends. BUt the whole of the council’s case is built on the fact that my wife is no longer my wife and my son is not a member of my family.

The final story is the latest Court of Protection judgement concerning a man with serious brain damage and the question of whether he has the mental capacity to marry.

The judge decided that the man, AK, did not have the capacity to understand the full implications of marriage and annulled the man’s marriage. In a sense, the judge couldn’t decide anything else and there were several pieces of evidence that led him to make the judgement he did. However, it made me think of two things: Firstly, there is little reference to best interests in the judgement (I acknowledge that wasn’t the remit of the case) and the consequence of the judgement is that AK will now be living alone in a care unit, rather than in the home he was sharing with his wife, who despite some of the things she did, obviously loves and cares for him. There may have been huge problems ahead for them as a couple but what he’s left with is a life in a loveless care home. Secondly, I thought that once again for me, this is a case where the hoops a learning disabled person has to go through to live a life are hugely greater than the non disabled person. How many married readers of this blog had to demonstrate they understood the concept of marriage and the implications of the married state before they tied the knot? When I got married at 23, I was as green as grass. I knew I was marrying someone I loved, perhaps we would have kids one day, live in a nice house and in our retirement, listen to Just A Minute together and wear matching cardigans. In my work as a counsellor, I see people daily who are in bad marriages (their term) and if I had a pound for everytime someone has said “If I knew then what I know now….”, I’d probaly have, oh, about £875.75. It feels to me that once again, where some leeway should be afforded the learning disabled around their decision making capacity, in reality for them, the bar is set higher than the non learning disabled.

And I am old enough to remember Richard Briers and Prunella Scales in Marriage Lines.


From → Social Care

  1. I know a couple in the north-east who had to move last year because their old upstairs flat in a village near Newcastle had become suitable — the wife had moved in when she was with a female roommate and suffered from mental illness; the roommate has now gone, the wife is a wife and now has severe ME, so when she’s able to, or has to, get out, she needs a ground-floor exit. They must also sleep in separate rooms because the wife needs a low-stimulation environment, and the new flat (which is a council flat) is £19/wk cheaper than the old one. But the new one is covered by the bedroom tax, which will leave them £9/mo worse off — not a huge amount, but it’s a mean thing to do to a couple who can’t work, who need the extra room and are not exactly wealthy. It goes to show how callous and incompetent the Tories are and how craven the Lib Dems are to support them.

  2. My mother was imprisoned in a care home against her wishes. One of my relatives obtained a power of attorney. The POA did not have my mother`s signature on it although she could write just fine. The document was set up whilst my mother was locked behind the care home doors. So I have always been very suspicious. When I approached the Public Guardian they would not investigate the matter.

    As soon as I found out about the power of attorney I was banned from visiting my mother in the care home after a rushed capacity assessment. I know my mother was having problems with her memory – she was 89 – but she knew me; I was her only visitor and without my visits she got no treats; no outings; nobody was there to pay attention to her needs. So banning my visits was never in her best interests. I have made formal complaints all the way up to the Ombudsman but none of my complaints have been upheld.

    The rushed capacity assessment, on top of what I see as a fraudulent power of attorney, has always been a bone of contention with me. I dislike the idea of other people `deciding` that a vulnerable adult is not able to `decide for themselves.` My mother only lasted another five weeks after I was banned and was taken to hospital where she lay for three days and died alone. How was that in her best interests?

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