Interview carried out by Disability News Service with Cornwall councillor Collin Brewer on 8 May 2013 (DNS in bold everything else by Collin Brewer):
Talking about the incident in October 2011.“What I couldn’t get out because the lady [from Disability Cornwall] turned her back, it was very expensive. My concern was that children are being sent from Cornwall all over the country far away from their parents and carers, and is that what we wish for our children? My concern is that such facilities ought to be local. It fills in with the ideas of Whole Life. I thought that it would be cheaper to provide those facilities closer to home in Cornwall, or that could deal with Devon as well.
“Is their life of such low esteem that that might be it?
“I have never killed a fish in my life. I believe all life is precious, whatever animal it is.
“I had just been to a council meeting which was discussing finance. When you are talking about having to close toilets, facilities for everyone and perhaps the coastal footpath for everyone, then I have got to question individual budgets to individual people.
“People are not on this earth for very long. My main concern is planning and environmental and landscape. In that context, people are just transient.
“I have heard of terrific amounts of money being spent on specific individuals.”
Disabled individuals? “I’m not sure.”
Some people have very high personal budgets? “Yes.”
What’s the solution to that? “The only way I can see it is more of a homes within the locality. When you look at people with mental health problems, for too long you have had all these massive institutions. Now at last people are beginning to see people with these disabilities in their locality… I really am not the ogre people are making me out to be.
“You are trying to make more of it than it was. I came out of a meeting talking about budgets very agitated.” He had spoken to someone on another stand first. The he moved on to the Disability Cornwall stand. “I think there were three people there. I was agitated and made that stupid remark for which I will always be sorry.
“The fact is that I think to keep 10 toilets open would cost about £250,000. That’s a service to the whole of the community. This is my concern. It is a balance which has to be made.”
As opposed to what? “As opposed to a service to one person. I know for instance of a lady with two dogs and she has three carers and she gets around, she has a frame. These carers are principally to walk the dogs. Little things like that that people are aware of. It makes me frustrated because I tend to think that it is money that could be better spent on someone else.”
The council could provide funding of £250,000 for one person? “That comes into it. It is obviously part of the equation. You have to say when you are talking about something for economic development what is the payback. It is a major concern. You have limited budget and it is being cut all the time.”
So when there are limited budgets you find it difficult sometimes to look at some of the big personal budgets being given to disabled people for social care and that is just for one person? Is that where the source of the concern is? “I don’t sit on any health committees but it is a concern. It is not only a concern of mine.”
So it is a widespread feeling in the council that the higher and rising costs of social care mean that there is less money for projects that could benefit the wider community? “It is bound to be a concern. Because we are having to get rid of libraries, sports centres, and not maintain even our roads.”
Should there be more abortions of disabled children? “I don’t agree with abortions. I am a Christian. All life is precious. It’s a dilemma that I have. It cannot be just me. I suppose it is an ethics question. If you were talking about getting rid of a person or a life it is not something I could condone.
“You will never believe it. Two weeks ago I walked up through a street and a retired doctor said I was perfectly right.”
That some disabled children should be put down? “Presumably it would depend on the degree of the disablement.”
What did you say to him? “I knew him. I was an acquaintance in the past. He is a medical man. He knows his business presumably.”
There must be something to what he was saying? “If that is what he said, there must be.”
But he was obviously advocating some kind of euthanasia? “All he said was I was right in my comment.”
How do you balance those two things? “You just can’t.”
He quoted some extract from The Way of Life, which he said he had never told anyone before but that he read every morning. It’s about doing good/no harm. “I try to abide by that.”
“The other problem is over-population. I see so many problems in the world regarding energy consumption, housing. We live in a finite environment. I am afraid that in a few generations we are going to be hit with terrible consequences of our breeding.”
So what is the solution? “I think the Chinese had a way of doing it. One child family.”
But then if you have a disabled child? “I really don’t know. No government is prepared to grasp it.”
So the solution might be easing those out of life who might be less productive? “You mentioned abortion. Doesn’t this happen now anyway?”
Do you think something might be done along the lines of the doctor? “If nothing is done we are going to have terrible wars or famine.”
To ease out those unproductive members of society? “We have a tax system that encourages people to breed like rabbits. If we had a tax system that encouraged one child or maybe two.”
Euthanasia might be a solution? “No.”
Other people who agreed with you? “My ward is partial urban but terrific rural area with a lot of farmers. A farmer didn’t see a lot wrong with what I said because it is something they do every day. If they have a misshapen lamb they get rid of it, they get rid of it. Bang! If you go to a farmer’s funeral there is not a lot of weeping because they are used to life and death. It is something they deal with on a daily basis.”
How did it make you feel? That you were right? “He’s certainly got a point. We are just animals. He’s obviously got a point.”
You have some sympathy with him and the doctor? “Of course I have. You can’t have lambs running around with five legs and two heads.
“People have also said that whilst they have a great sympathy with these [families], there is always the problem when the parents or carers leave this world. What does happen? It is a worry.”
They become a burden? “Yes. Who shoulders the burden after they have looked after them for so many years. But I think society is getting a lot more tolerant in that respect.”
Has anybody else said they agreed with you? “Strangely enough I have been up to other towns and people have come up and shook my hand. Complete strangers.”
How did that make you feel? “It made me feel that I am not the ogre that I have been painted. I think a lot of them is sympathy for me.”
Sympathy? “I think humans are animals.”
If other people are killing animals it is OK? “Do you eat meat? [That is] killing of an animal.”
So the difference between putting down an animal who is severely disabled and putting down a child who is severely disabled is not that great then? “Yes, you seem to forget that we kill, we rule the roost.”
There isn’t that much difference between putting down a lamb or a child with two heads? “I think the cost has got to be evaluated. It is not something I would like to do but there is only so much in the bucket. If you are talking about giving services to the community or services to the individual, the balance has got to be struck.”
You might think then that if there was a child with two heads, that might be where the line is drawn. It might be kinder to put that child down? “Is that one child or two? I would hope that although I don’t like the idea of it, long before it is born that this problem is [stopped] and it will probably be aborted in some way.”
And if it wasn’t? “Then if it wasn’t, then well, what happens?”
The lamb would be put down. “It would be put down, smashed against the wall and be dealt with.”
It might be as […] for a similar thing to be done for the child? “That would be up to the decision of whoever is there at the birth. It makes me wonder that some children have been aborted, some abortions are so late that the child is there.”
Those are decisions about putting down a child with that degree of impairment might well mean more money for the wider community? “It might. It probably will.”
It does make an argument and a good argument for maybe ending the lives of some severely disabled children with severe learning difficulties? “I am not making that judgment. There may be a case. I haven’t a clue how much they cost. When people complain to me about the state of our finances, I say, well, we can’t afford to do it. We might be forced to close our beaches. That’s a service to us all. It is a dilemma and it is going to get increasingly a problem with budget cuts.”
Between services for disabled people and…? “Between all services.”
It does make an argument for putting down some severely disabled children? “Yes. That is why I keep as far away from health in the council as I can.
“I was a conservation man for Cornwall. Very much concerned with landscape and planning.”
Does it frustrate you that with all the money spent on people’s lives, so little is spent on the environment? “We work according to the budget.”
Said he is currently off sick from the council. Had a series of strokes some time ago. “You’re liable to flare up.”
Personality-wise? “Yes. People have said I have changed since those strokes.”