Disabled Student Deprived Of Dignity By Carers

A paraplegic Ulster law student who received compensation from a nursing and care company which refused to lift her from her wheelchair last night spoke of the humiliation and degradation she endured as a result of her treatment.

Laura Lee Jenkins (21), from Saintfield, was awarded £3,000 after Nursing and Care Direct admitted breaching disability discrimination laws. The firm also issued an apology to Laura at the time of the settlement.

However, the inspirational young woman believes they got off lightly. Because of their refusal, Laura was unable to graduate from university or even leave her house.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from her Co Down home last night, Laura, who has received a Pioneer of the Nation award from the Queen, explained how the nine-month fight had taken a big toll both on herself and her mother.

“It was just awful,” she said. “My mum had just had throat surgery and was unable to speak. I had to react to things every single day. To try to deal with phone calls, different people and try and co-ordinate things as well as trying to do my degree was quite stressful. I am a very private person but it got to the point where I had to tell my adviser and had to explain everything that was going on and he was totally shocked.”

Laura, who weighs just under five stone, said she felt the firm did not fully understand how profound the effect their actions had been on her happiness and wellbeing, and believes they “got off lightly”.

“The compensation covers the very black and white side of things, it does not cover the attitude they had towards me or what was going on in the house,” she said. They left me without my dignity, they were in breach of my human rights and this was all going on in my own house, the one place where you are meant to feel safe. It’s still impacting on me now.”

The family called in the Equality Commission who fought the case on their behalf. Nursing & Caring Direct eventually settled the action by admitting its refusal to perform the duties were a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. As well as apologising to Laura, Nursing and Caring Direct agreed to review its policies, practices and procedures.

Anne McKernan, casework director at the Equality Commission, said Laura’s case was among a number of cases which had been brought under the Disability and Discrimination Act.

“People who have disabilities face many difficulties in life and it is unacceptable that additional barriers are put in their way through discrimination by those providing services to them. The courage and commitment of people who challenge this kind of treatment can bring great benefits to all disabled people by changing behaviour and attitudes throughout our society.”