David Cameron has insisted he has “every sympathy” with the parents of a severely disabled girl who say their daughter may have to go into care after he reneged on a pre-election pledge.
The Prime Minister said he would be looking into the case of Celyn Vincent “very closely” but denied the coalition’s austerity measures were preventing the family from getting more help.
The six-year-old has severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and requires round-the-clock care. But her parents receive just six hours respite a week, with Ms Vincent criticising Mr Cameron as she said her family was “crumbling”.
Mr Cameron, whose son Ivan suffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy and died in 2009 aged six, told a press conference in Downing Street: “I have every sympathy with the incredible difficulty that families have with bringing up disabled children, particularly when, as in the case of Riven’s child, they are quadriplegic and have to have a huge amount of help around the clock, 24 hours a day.
“I have experience of this myself, and I know how tough and hard it can be, and how so many families can get to the end of their tether and just not know how they are going to go on caring for someone they absolutely love and feel a great joy from, as well as a huge amount of challenge in their lives. Obviously, I’m going to look into this case very closely and have already started to do that.”
Mr Cameron said he understood South Gloucestershire Council had been in touch with the family since the story emerged to see if more could be done to help keep Celyn – the Welsh equivalent of Holly – at home.
“I hope this is possible,” he added. “As Prime Minister, one of the things I am very keen to do is help families in this position and that is why, in a time of austerity and difficulty, we have put hundreds of millions of pounds more into respite care and into helping families who are looking after disabled children. I don’t believe there is a relationship between the cuts that are inevitably taking place nationally in some public services and this individual case.”
Mr Cameron visited the family at their home in Bristol last April, after which they believed he would do more to help carers if he became prime minister. But on Wednesday, in a desperate plea posted on the parenting website Mumsnet, Ms Vincent announced that she had asked social services to take Celyn into care.
“We only get six hours’ respite a week. They have refused a link family. They have refused extra respite. I can’t cope,” Ms Vincent posted.
In a statement on Thursday, the mother criticised Mr Cameron for failing to improve the plight of carers. She said: “No one government is to blame. But I had hoped that, after David Cameron came to visit me earlier this year following our exchange on Mumsnet, he would have done more to protect families like ours.”