Saving coppers, but at what cost?

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

Saving coppers, but at what cost?

As back to school time approaches and I find myself buying uniform and schoolbags a letter arrives about this years travel arrangements for my disabled son.

Once again it’s yet another company, a different driver and a different route. Why?

Because someone else put a bid in for the route that was pennies cheaper than last years company so they get the contract now instead.

For the sake of those saved pennies to the local authority, I will now, once again, have months of my child self harming, screaming, confused, anxious and agitated as he struggles to adapt to the change and I struggle to help him and trust strangers to once again transport my vulnerable son who can’t even speak.

We go through this every single year not because the previous people didn’t want to do the job another year but all because of a policy that means the cheapest option must always be used whatever the impact to the user.

There’s no compassion for the stress or upset it causes or the understanding or awareness of the level of anxiety it unnecessarily puts my child (and us) through.

It’s cheaper, and apparently, that’s all that matters.

It’s not just school transport that has this attitude either.

It’s the same with the medical supplies that he needs for his safety and dignity.

For years we had a great product that fitted well, was comfortable and provided the support required.

Then my son outgrew the product and we had to go through the process of getting the next size.

Unfortunately now the next size of the same product isn’t anything like as good a fit, nor is it comfortable for my child, and it doesn’t provide him with the same dignity or support he desperately needs.

I requested another product instead but I was informed those can’t be supplied as they cost a few pence more!

Now as a result of having poorly fitting products I am having to wash his clothes far more often, provide numerous changes to school daily and even having to dispose of clothes most weeks as the product has leaked or not remained in place and therefore the clothing has become ruined.

What saves the health authority pennies is costing me many pounds every week and causing my son distress and discomfort that could so easily be solved by being willing to spend just a tiny fraction more for the right product for him.

I know my child is vastly expensive and as a disabled young person he will forever require 24/7 care. I absolutely appreciate and am grateful for any support or help we receive.

This isn’t being ungrateful it’s about a system that sees only cost savings above everything else and refuses to look beyond the fact that the cheapest option isn’t always the right one.

I get that budgets are limited. I understand prudence and accountability. My question is though: is the cost and impact of saving coppers really worth it in the long run?

What about the radical idea that the needs of a disabled person were forefront in any decisions? What about if we actually valued people like my son enough to realise that by saving just a few pence you are in fact costing somewhere else much more and impacting on so many other areas like his education and family life needlessly?

What about someone somewhere actually stopping and thinking ‘is this really worth us saving just a few pence?’ Surely my son is worth that?

Do we really think so little of disabled children and young people to say only the cheapest option will ever do for them?

The saddest thing of all is that so many families like mine face this day in and day out.

So many disabled children, young people, and adults have been told that they can’t have what they need just because it’s not the cheapest option.

Their dignity, pain, stress and anxiety doesn’t seem to matter at all.

All that ever seems to matter is saving a few coppers every single time whatever the cost leaving families left to pick up the pieces of a system that values a few pennies saved over anything else.


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