I’ve just binge watched There She Goes, described on iPlayer as a “Comedy drama that shines a light on the day-to-day life of a family looking after their severely learning disabled girl, Rosie.”
I love and hate There She Goes. I am drawn in by the very watchable David Tennant (Simon) and Jessica Hynes (Emily). And I love it because there are moments when it is funny in a world where people (wrongly) seem to think that parenting a disabled child is a pretty joyless affair. But I’m frustrated by a programme that feels too loosely connected to many of the political struggles disabled people and families face. And watching Series 2 under lockdown has made me even more aware of the need to foreground these injustices.
So, here are my ideas for the next episode: There She Goes – the one with the lockdown.
It’s 2020 and mum, Emily, dad, Simon, brother, Ben and Rosie are now in lock down. All Rosie’s routines are disrupted, she can no longer go to the zoo, avoid the animals and roll down the hill. Even socially distanced walks become a nightmare as Rosie fails to observe social distancing rules and she simply won’t wear a mask – much to the disgust of passing strangers and the next door neighbour whose daughter is never seen without hers. The family don’t receive a shielding letter and the support that comes with it, but decide they must shield because of the risks to Rosie of being admitted to hospital with no family support and of being subject to a Do Not Resuscitate order in hospital. They struggle to book their delivery slot at the supermarket and can’t make use of the quiet hour as this is for older people. Despite being on the ‘vulnerable’ list of children who can attend school, Rosie is not going in because school have implied that it would be difficult to keep her safe.
Simon has been furloughed but Emily is still able to work remotely, and while Simon drinks and smokes in the garden, Emily’s on-line meetings are regularly punctuated by Rosie with her iPad, demanding Emily find another picture of an X. Colleagues think this is cute the first few times, but then begin to private message each other about whether Emily is now coming across as ‘just a bit unprofessional’. After all, restructuring is on the cards.
The grandparents are all in self-isolation too and Rosie refuses to Skype. She has not seen her beloved Gandalf (grandpa) for weeks – Gandalf, who always looks deeply uncomfortable when Rosie is around, is relieved. Grandma talks constantly about how desperate she is to see her ‘perfect’ new baby granddaughter … and Ben. In the last four months, the cheery social worker, who visited to ask about the bruising on Rosie’s shoulder, has not even picked up the phone once to see how the family is doing. The local authority Rosie’s family live in is one of eight which enacted the Care Act easements which means that Rosie’s small care support package is under threat and her Education Health and Care Plan no longer has the legal teeth it used to have.
But as the strain begins to grow, Emily signs up to Twitter. She discovers a community of disability activists – disabled people and family members. She starts to learn about a social model of disability and realises that her deep love for Rosie is built on the view that it is society, not Rosie who needs to change. She starts to follow the #SEND community and she learns that it was discrimination that led to her daughter being asked to leave nursery, not kindness upon the part of the head tilting, weakly smiling nursery manager. She learns that the social worker should have offered Rosie a children in need assessment when she came to visit, not just a few days generic respite, including archery, but support designed to meet Rosie’s hopes and dreams. And Emily learns that she is entitled to carer’s assessment.
On learning about the Care Act easements in her local authority, Emily gets legal support to challenge them and the easements are withdrawn. She joins with other disabled people and families to campaign for guidelines for critical care resource allocation so that Rosie is not at risk from a DNR. And then, she joins the #EveryDeathCounts campaign to force the government to publish robust statistics about the deaths of people with learning disabilities in the pandemic.
Emily is exhausted.
Simon has another smoke in the garden.
 Rosie is played by a non-disabled child actor. We are told that ‘advice from psychologists was that the long working hours with minimal breaks would be too burdensome for a learning disabled child” Robinson, Abby (16 October 2018). “New David Tennant comedy There She Goes is funnier than it has any right to be”. Digital Spy. We are not told if advice was sought from disabled actors.