Dear Church, please do some yelling

(Photo: Unsplash/Yomex Owo)

There's been something in the news quite a lot recently – lots of different stories about the same subject, and all to do with justice.

Can you guess what I'm talking about?

One story is a report that says women with a learning disability will generally die 27 years earlier than women without a learning disability. For men the figure is 23 years earlier. This is bad enough, but the figure has risen since the last report.

There was an article about disability hate crime online being three times higher. Then there was the court case about provision of additional needs support in schools – or rather the lack of provision due to changes in funding.

There was also a piece about children with autism locked up in facilities miles away from their families.

Then I spotted the speech Sally Phillips gave to the Royal College of Gynecologists about Down Syndrome 'screening'.

And today I saw an article about a blind man trying to find mental health support, who was rejected eight times by different therapists because of his blindness.

Apparently this is normal and a British Medical Journal survey states that long wait times for healthcare is the biggest obstacle faced by one in four people living with a severe disability.

You've probably guessed by now that I'm talking about disability in the news.

There were more items in the same vein, but the report on the early deaths of those with learning disabilities stood out because I know people who have been treated differently in the medical sphere just because they are disabled.

I have one young friend whose life was deemed to have no quality and therefore treatment options offered were sparse, until his mum fought for his life - literally. This child's quality of life was better than many children with no disability, so why was that judgement made?

I've heard many other stories from friends whose grown up children with learning difficulties have not been offered needed treatment. One parent drove miles to a specialist hospital just to get a doctor to take their child's condition seriously. Had they not done that, their child would have sustained a further life changing disability.

The issue is usually just lack of understanding.

But sometimes the issue is biased thinking - often unintentionally, but there are also a few who make judgements about the lives of those with a disability, deeming them to be 'lacking a quality of life' and therefore not needing some treatments. This is wrong.

Have I made you angry yet? I hope so!

One of my friends shared this report on social media and commented "Where are The Church on this? Silent as usual! They've commented on all sorts of other political stuff – why not the premature deaths of those with learning disabilities?" She pointed out that with so many reports on the TV about deaths in care and poor treatment in care facilities, you would think 'The Church' would be more vocal about this.

So who is standing with and for those who have a disability or additional needs? The voice of those who have a lived experience of disability is there, but no one is listening. It needs to be amplified by those who have a greater voice.

When it was first reported that those with disabilities were the most affected in the austerity cutbacks, the protests about it were met with silence. In fact, a petition to stop the culling of badgers got more signatures than the one about what was happening to the most vulnerable disabled people in our society. So I can see what my friend means when she says the church is silent. And it's not just the church.

I've been doing some research on disability and abortion recently, so Sally Phillips' speech was really interesting, especially when you look at the figures to do with Down's Syndrome.

Her friend researched the figures. Are you ready for this?

In hospitals who offer screening for Down's Syndrome, the live birth rate for DS is down 30%, in those hospitals that do not offer screening it is down 9%.

I went to one of the many Christian pro-life websites to get some quotes about this, and I found they had nothing on abortion due to disability. Nada. Why? I don't know, but I can say this: It's a small glimpse of how some in The Church deal with injustices towards those with disabilities and additional needs.

We are told to speak out for the vulnerable and those who cannot speak for themselves; so why isn't the Church, not just speaking out, but yelling about the injustices that face disabled people of all ages on a daily basis?

I have no answers to that. Well I do, but I probably need to write a separate article on it. I'll just let you ponder it.

Please Church. Do some yelling.

I don't want to see these stories in the news any more. Not because they're not being reported, but because we've reached the day when they're no longer happening.

Kay Morgan-Gurr is Chair of Children Matter and Co-Founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, part of the Evangelical Alliance Council. For more, and on Twitter @kaymorgan_gurr