Wearside MP Sharon Hodgson has pledged her support for families with disabled children at an event organised by charity Contact a Family at the Houses of Parliament.
The national charity, which supports families with disabled children, organised the Meet My Family reception to give people the opportunity to meet local MPs and tell them more about their experiences of caring for disabled children - and what they would like to see from MPs in the next five years.
The main concerns raised by parents and carers were the lack of affordable and appropriate childcare and long waiting times for treatment.
Maureen Morris, from Washington, told Sharon about her fears for ensuring her 21-year-old daughter Caitlin is properly settled and cared for her in adulthood before Maureen gets too old to look after her.
Caitlyn was diagnosed with autism aged three, and at the age of eight her family were told she also has a condition called Spastic Paraplegia, which is a life-long degenerative disease making it increasingly difficult for her to be independently mobile.
Maureen and her husband Ken have supported Caitlin for the past 21 years, ensuring she has access to the best education available and had opportunities the same as other children such as going to Brownies and swimming.
But the couple now want to make sure the next stage of Caitlin’s life is planned and settled as she goes into adulthood.
“We are both now retired and we have four years left under the umbrella of children and young people before she is cared for in adult services,” said Maureen.
“We need to know what the next stage of her life will bring. We want to make sure she gets a say in where she will live as an adult when we are too old to care for her any more.
“All this needs thinking through now before we get any older,” she added.
“Anything Sharon can do to help people in our position to raise awareness of the difficulties we face will be very much appreciated.”
Speaking after the event Sharon said: “The reception was a great opportunity to meet with families to find out more about the day-to-day realities of caring for disabled children.
“It’s really important to remember that families with disabled children give huge amounts back to our community and economy in so many different ways and it was fantastic to be able to celebrate this.
“I’m proud to pledge my support to secure a brighter future for the growing population of disabled children, and I will make sure the contribution these families make is properly highlighted in the years ahead.”
Amanda Batten, chief executive of Contact a Family, said: “As it is the start of a new Parliament we thought it was a great opportunity to bringtogether MPs with families to hear, first hand, what life is like if you have disabledchildren to care for.
“Too often the fantastic contribution that the secret army of parent carers make to their communities and the economy is overshadowed by poverty, isolation and misunderstanding.
“Their contribution also often comes at a high personal cost in terms of income, relationships and health.
“Contact a Family wants to change this, tocelebrate this invaluable contribution and work together with families to help MPs understand the realities of family life with disabled children.”