A brave father said the lack of help for his two autistic sons drove him close to suicide.
Dad-of-five Martin Kilgallon gave a passionate speech at the launch of Labour’s general election manifesto on Tuesday.
Mr Kilgallon has become a face of the Labour campaign after his battle to get better care for his sons Fredi and Tolan, both of whom are profoundly autistic and cannot speak.
The Mirfield business owner said NHS cuts – and waits for treatment stretching into years – left him desperate and contemplating suicide, the Mirror reported http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/emotional-dad-tells-labour-party-10432652 .
Mr Kilgallon, 43, told the conference that something had to change.
He said: “Dealing with a disability or special needs is hard enough and doesn’t need to be made harder by a reduction in vital services – something has to change.
“My eldest son Mason has brittle asthma and has been admitted to hospital eight times in the last three months. In the past he has suffered from a respiratory arrest.
“Each time we visit hospital we are met with mayhem. The A&E departments are understaffed, ambulances are queuing and doctors don’t have time to explain what’s going on.”
He added: “We knew from an early age that Tolan was different and asked our GP for help. After much to-ing and fro-ing we were finally referred to a paediatrician who added Tolan to an autism diagnosis waiting list. At the time that was three years long.
“We tried again and again to make our case to the local NHS about these waiting times but were always met with the same apologies – there’s no money for this.”
Mr Kilgallon befriended the late Batley and Spen Labour MP Jo Cox after she helped his campaign The Whole Autism Family.
He said: “In 2011 Fredi was born and by 2013 he was showing signs of autism. Again, after a battle, we were added to yet another three-year waiting list.
“Thanks to intervention from the late Jo Cox , Freddy received his diagnosis in 2016.”
The strain of bringing up three children with profound disabilities took its toll on Mr Kilgallon and his wife Anne-Marie.
Mr Kilgallon said: “During this time in my life I would work until 7 or 8 at night and on arriving at home the first thing I would do was open a bottle of red wine.
“To a lot of people a bottle of red wine every night isn’t a lot but I knew this wasn’t for me and I sought help from the local doctor there was no support for this – I wasn’t an alcoholic.
“One Sunday night in 2014 things finally got to me and I took a walk on the hard shoulder of the M62.
“I don’t know how I managed to get there but the intended outcome was to end my own life. Fortunately I didn’t.”
The Kilgallons set up The Whole Autism Family which has since received an award from the Duke of York.
But the battle is far from over.
Tolan and Fredi’s school has told them it cannot meet their needs and they are now waiting for a place in a special needs school.
Mr Kilgallon told the audience he was voting Labour because they had pledged to invest in social care and to fund education properly.
He said: “Labour would develop a better, fairer Britain.”