Who was Jared Botham?

Jared was his mum, Vicky’s, first born, arriving into this world on Sunday 20 February 1994. Vicky was a young mum, only 19, but so excited for what the future held. She described Jared as a perfect baby, he didn’t cry a lot, he slept and he fed well, but at his 6 month check-up there was concern that he wasn’t putting weight on.

From that point on Jared started to receive support. They had input from physiotherapists, occupational therapists and a speech therapist who went to their home, along with a brilliant community paediatric nurse. Jared started to receive overnight feeds from about 9 months. Vicky described how everyone loved working with him, he was such a gorgeous boy and tried his hardest to do what was asked of him.

When Jared was six, coming up to seven, his sister was born, and a few years later his younger brother was born. Jared loved being a big brother and had a very, very close bond with his little brother. They used to enjoy watching SpongeBob together, playing with lego and as they got a little older playing two player PlayStation games.

Jared had an electric wheelchair and his brother used to stand on the back of it as Jared left the house and went to the school bus each day, he’d spend the afternoon waiting for him to come home so they could do the same journey in reverse.

Vicky and her daughter rode horses and Jared would go up to the stables with them occasionally, and he’d often be cold and end up wrapped up in lots of blankets.

Vicky was a single parent, and didn’t have a lot of spare money, but they had a lot of love and a happy home, and Jared had a great relationship with his grandparents. Jared was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder, and learning disabilities, attending the local special school.

Jared didn’t let anything get in his way of having a good life though. He remained small throughout his life, but also had an enormous appetite, he’d eat everything and anything except apples, he drew the line at them, unless they were in a pie. If you had a spare strawberry yoghurt he’d happily take that off your hands.

Move to ‘Supported Living’

Jared lived at home with his mum and two younger siblings until he was 18. Like any family, we knew each other well, and supported each other, we were a close family unit. Without Vicky’s knowledge, a social worker visited Jared at school when he turned 18 and conducted a Mental Capacity Assessment, which his mum has never seen. This assessment deemed Jared to be capable of making his own decisions.

One day in November Jared left for school and made a seemingly innocuous comment, asking when he was going to Yew Trees again? (Yew Trees was the local respite service, and Jared loved it there, they did lots of fun things that Vicky couldn’t necessarily afford as a family, trips to the seaside, or the cinema). Vicky remembers how she didn’t really think anything of it.

Jared never came home from school that day.

Apparently Jared had mentioned at school he was unhappy at home, and because the social worker deemed him capable of making his own decisions, they were not returning him home.

Jared went to Yew Trees to start with, Vicky visited him and he talked about coming home.  Vicky attended a subsequent meeting, where there were lots of professionals and they said to Jared ‘you’ve a couple choices, you are old enough to make your own decisions, you can go home or you can go to a place like Yew Trees called Ability’. Jared chose the latter and Vicky felt like she had to support his decision, he was growing up, and if that’s what he wanted, who was she to stop him.

Vicky was not asked to contribute to any handover, no-one asked her about Jared’s likes or dislikes, his medical condition or his needs. She felt like they didn’t want me involved and the atmosphere was difficult when she visited Jared.

Jared left school the June after he turned 19 and moved to a supported living bungalow the following September. Vicky worked full time, and still had two other children to support, but would visit Jared as often as she could on her days off and they’d go out and do things. They’d visit Meadow Hall shopping centre, Vicky would take Jared to get his hair cut, that sort of thing.

Jared started talking about wanting to come home, but Vicky felt certain that wouldn’t happen because the care provider was being paid a lot of money to look after him.

What happened

The last time Vicky saw her son alive was Christmas 2014. Jared had been at the centre of their family, safe and well and loved in their home for 18 years, and after less than two years in the ‘care’ of Ability Care, he was dead. Vicky spoke to Jared on New Year’s Day 2015 and that was the last time she ever spoke to him.

On 4 January 2015 Vicky woke at 7am to find a text message on her phone from a number that she didn’t know. The message, sent the night before around midnight, stated that Jared had been taken poorly and he was currently en route to A&E in an ambulance, and that they would ring her as soon as he arrived at the hospital.

No-one rang Vicky. There were no missed calls.

Completely alarmed she rang his carers at the Supported Living house to check whether Jared was still in hospital, or had returned there. The phone was passed to the manager who informed Vicky over the phone that Jared had died at 1am in hospital.

At that point Jared had been dead for 6 hours.

No-one contacted Vicky. No-one gave her the chance to be with her son in the last moments of his life. Vicky expressed how no parent should have that choice taken away from them. She described how nothing can ever prepare you for that pain.

What has happened since

It’s now coming up to six years since Jared died and Vicky has fought tirelessly for answers about why her son died suddenly, at the age of 20 with no life-limiting conditions.

Since Jared died Vicky has learned that he became unwell on 2 January and over the following days his condition did not improve. The first she heard that her son had been unwell was the morning after he had died.

Apparently medical advice was sought from Jared’s GP surgery and he was diagnosed with diarrhoea and vomiting. Despite the local hospital advising that Jared must attend hospital if he became unwell, this did not happen until the few hours before his death. Too little, too late.

A Serious Incident Report conducted by 111, the out of hours GP service, reported that both the on-call GP and the staff members on duty the night that Jared died had insufficient knowledge of his medical conditions. Vicky believes this lack of knowledge, and delay in seeking appropriate treatment, resulted in her son’s death.

In October 2020 Jared’s mum Vicky launched a crowdfunding page to gather financial support to enable her to be represented at Jared’s long awaited inquest.

The response was phenomenal. Vicky raised her target in 24hrs, and then met her stretch target. She responded:

‘Wow. I don’t really know what words to use to say thank you, but I am so very grateful to each and every one of you who has supported #JusticeforJaredB. I’ve been blown away by your generosity, lovely comments, shares on social media and so touched by your support.

For years I’ve known what happened wasn’t right, but so many times I’ve questioned myself. There seems to be an acceptance that disabled people die early and I know that’s not right, and now I know that so many of you feel the same way. Thank you.

We met our initial fundraising target in the first 24hours of Jared’s page going live. I’ve raised the stretch target twice since then, so that people could donate if they wished to. I wanted to post an update so you know how your money will be used.

The first £4,500 will cover the costs of my solicitor and barrister to be in court for two days, based on their reduced rates for 6 hrs each day. If we are able to reach the stretch target of £6k we will be able to instruct an independent expert to provide a report for us.

Once we reach £6,000 the fundraiser will be closed to new donations and we’d suggest people donate to other similar cases such as that of Sally Lewis‘.

True to her word Vicky closed her crowdfunder, sending people in the direction of the one organised by Sally’s sister, Julie. In a bizarre twist Sally’s inquest should also have been happening this week but it has also been adjourned.

How have we got here as a society? Where bereaved families are left to fundraise for legal support and expert evidence? Where inquests are routinely taking years and years to happen. Jared died in 2015, Sally in 2017, we’re almost at the end of 2020.

Vicky, Jared’s mum, isn’t entitled to legal aid because the coroner ruled that Article 2 isn’t engaged, so her initial fundraising efforts that covered the cost of her legal team for 2 days and an expert report, won’t be enough to cover this new extended hearing, and today’s PIR. I’ll share a link when Vicky launches another crowdfunder, on the offchance some of you could help, to spread the word if nothing more.

I am so grateful to those families who know something isn’t right, and persist with identifying what happened. After the conclusion of Thomas Rawnsley and Joanna Bailey’s inquests last month I’d not blame anyone who just couldn’t face engaging with our coronial system, but families do and we, society, owe them a debt for persevering. (See Natural Causes and When is Neglect not Neglect for more thoughts on this).

I’m going to finish this post with a tweet from Angela, you can learn more about her daughter Sally and their experience on their website here. Salt and wounds. Horrific additional trauma on top of traumatic grief.

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