Dina

Dina

Dina couldn’t believe it. Was she really not going to be able to see her sister?

Dina is 21. Her sister, Caroline, is 15. Caroline has Down’s Syndrome, and because their mother has mental health issues, Dina had increasingly taken on caring roles for Caroline. Caroline had been moved to foster care because of the issues at home, and so Dina was now restricted to seeing her sister on their fortnightly trips out together, which they both treasured. They would go out to breakfast and catch up.

Dina says, “Every time I'm with her, she has the best times. We sing and listen to music, and you know, eat a good breakfast, healthy, nutritious food.”

Then the bombshell. Dina received a letter from the local authority social services saying she could only now see Caroline on a supervised visit, and only once a month. Dina was dumbfounded. There hadn’t been any issues on any of their times together. Caroline was never anything but really happy to see Dina, and they always had a great time.

Dina kept on emailing and demanding to know why she wasn’t allowed to see Caroline. “I was saying this is going to distress my sister. She has Down’s Syndrome. She doesn't have the capacity to understand why I'm not coming. She has a mental age of 4 years old even though she's 15.”

“She needs me, she desperately needs me. She needs a big sister. She's going through a huge, transformative period of her life. She tells me when her stomach cramps flare up. She tells me when she's on her menstrual cycle. She seeks comfort from me, and I'm able to guide her through.”
Social Services were being completely intransigent, and Dina’s only recourse was to challenge them in the courts. But how was she going to be able to take on the local authority and their lawyers, and where to begin? (Family law cases such as these are no longer eligible for legal aid.) Dina was desperate.

She says, “Then I got lucky. A friend told me about Paperweight.

“They spent time explaining the application form and how to structure a statement. Incredibly, they also found a barrister who most kindly agreed to work pro bono. This was such a huge relief as I could not possibly afford to pay for his advice which ran to tens of thousands of pounds.”

Thanks to this backing, Dina was able to be properly represented at the hearing. The result was that her right to access has been acknowledged, and the frequency of contact will be built up.

Dina is delighted. She says, “Without that support from Paperweight, I just would have been lost. I would have felt totally alone. I would just be this 21 year-old girl, who they don't need to take seriously. Paperweight have given me the legal knowledge and they've helped me to fight my side systematically. It's priceless support.”

She needs me, she desperately needs me. She needs a big sister. She's going through a huge, transformative period of her life. She seeks comfort from me, and I'm able to guide her through.

dina

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Claire’s daughter has learning disabilities. What support should she get? Nothing, apparently.
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