“Single parents of disabled children are under huge social pressure,” said Marc Van Gestel of the NPO Opvang Tekors, on Thursday, after a disabled man died in Tremelo (Flemish Brabant) the previous day. He fears this will happen again. A 68-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday after his disabled stepson, 48, was found dead in his bed at a house in Tremelo. An investigating judge placed the 68-year-old under arrest and opened a murder investigation. In his initial statement, the suspect said the victim’s death was due to the death last year of his (the suspect’s) partner, the victim’s mother.
For Opvang Tekort, this is just one of a long line of similar cases. “We’re worried this will keep happening. There are so many parents in a similar situation, who feel hopeless and have no support and nobody to talk to,” said Marc Van Gestel. “That a (step-)parent could kill their child is beyond understanding for anyone who is also a parent. But it’s difficult not to feel compassion for this man. He must have been under so much pressure that the disabled child dying seemed to be the only solution.”
He encourages the parents of disabled children to ask family for support or request professional help: “Nobody can be a carer 24/7.” He also invites friends, family and neighbours of families caring for a disabled child to keep in touch with these families and to encourage them to seek respite care every now and then.
He is calling on the authorities to devise an action plan to make contact with vulnerable families and explain the support options available. “This is becoming increasingly important as authorities lean towards the ‘socialisation’ of care,” he added.