POLITICS

Disability Rights: Neil Burden, Second Cornwall Councillor To Say 'Too Many Disabled Children Who Cost Too Much'

04/03/2013 16:38 GMT

Another councillor in Cornwall is facing a backlash after saying there were "too many disabled children" and referring to a disabled child who had died as "it".

Neil Burden, the lead member for Children’s Services in the council, made the comments in 2010 whilst talking to Sandra Ward, at that time the Chair of the Parent Carer Council for Cornwall. He has since apologised, acknowledging his comments were "clumsy" saying they were "meant with no malice." His full statement is published on Cornwall Council website.

Members of the PCC were reduced to tears by Mr Burden’s remarks which related to the expense of keeping “handicapped” children alive.

Ms Ward, who is a carer herself, had complained to the then leader of the council, Alec Robertson, about the comments.

However she was shocked to receive a letter back which only served to perpetuate negative views of disabled children.

Alec Robertson’s letter suggested that there was a serious point in suggesting "remedial action" should be taken before disabled children are born and read "I understand that when using the phrases that have given you such concern, he (Councillor Burden) was trying to express a serious point; he believes that the health service should do more to prevent or reduce levels of disabilities by improved diagnoses and remedial action both before birth and in early years."

The deputy leader of the council said in a statement that Ms Ward "recently acknowledged the work and support I have put in on behalf of disabled children in the last three years."

However Ms Ward has called for his resignation, writing in a letter published in This Is Cornwall: "No child should ever be referred to as 'it' and as for there being too many of our disabled children I do not know how to respond to that, as a parent or as the chair of the PCC, as I have never heard such an awful statement in the 12 years of my daughter being born."

Burden's comments have recently resurfaced after Colin Brewer, another independent councillor in Cornwall, was forced to resign after saying disabled children should be "put down" as they were costing the council too much money.

Disability Cornwall has argued that a "culture of fear" is preventing more people from speaking out as they believe this could impact on them personally.

In a statement they said: "Representative organisations are also fearful of speaking up as so many are currently re-negotiating contracts for council funding and there are Council officers and members who are fearful for their own positions if they raise their heads above the parapet.

Jan Powell, Cornwall Councillor for Liskeard North, said it was easy for councillors to limit funding. She said: "They can delay the assessment process; make people go through panels for funding; not undertake the proper assessment process and close services by the back door by reducing referrals and reducing the hours and days that the service is available.

We, as a council, need a fundamental review to challenge ourselves to make sure that our decisions put people and their needs first and that our lawful policies channel funds to maximise benefit for those most needy."

Council leader Jim Currie said “ Neil is the most committed and hard working member of the Cabinet. He works tirelessly to improve the quality of the services we provide for children and families in Cornwall and to ensure that their needs are understood and taken into account in every decision we make.”