Book Review: Standing up for James by Jane Raca

Jane Raca has written the book she would have liked to have read in the weeks and months following her son’s traumatic birth. Her son James was born at 25 weeks, (three weeks earlier than I was). James suffered catastrophic brain damage which left him with autism and very severe cerebral palsy, among other things. Instead of being supported as she might have expected and certainly deserved, Birmingham City Council failed to provide her family with even the most basic care, never doing a core assessment which would have ensured the needs of James parents and siblings were met as well as his needs too. However, “nothing happened” An oft repeated phrase, which meant Jane’s health and emotional needs were ignored, as well the emotional needs of her other children, and her marriage also buckled.

Two things shine out of this book: Jane’s love for James, and her son’s massive personality. I urge you to read this book, whoever you are: social work student, parent of a child with special needs, or just someone interested in their story. You will laugh lots, I can promise you that, it’s a very funny book. As well as cataloging the failures of the council and  chronicling her fight for appropriate provision for her son’s needs, Jane considers the ethical and moral issues at stake when children such as James are saved at all costs, and the implications of this for hospitals, local authorities and families themselves. You will laugh, cry, get angry and laugh some more. Go, on, buy it, you know you want to!

incidentally, Birmingham City Council have failed adults with disabilities and their families too. Several major charities took them to court in 2011 for changing their eligibility criteria (the circumstances in which care should be provided) from substantial and critical needs, to caring for those with critical needs only.  If Leeds City Council were to do this, the likes of me would not have any care provision at all. Fortunately, Birmingham City Council Social Care were judged to be unlawful, so they lost the court case and had to rethink their whole poThere are indeed currently many concerns surrounding social care which have been newsworthy of late, and new problems will continue as council budgets are further squeezed, especially when the Independent Living Fund (ILF) closes in 2015. This was a fund which provides money for care for those with the most severe needs effectively topping up money provided by social serves. This has been deemed too expensive. N.B. care is expensive! As a starting point, go and read Standing up for James!


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