A mayor in northern France, whose son has autism, has gone on a hunger strike to protest against the lack of help for people with disabilities in the country.
Georgio Loiseau, mayor of Poses (Eure) near Rouen, began the week-long strike on Monday (May 29).
He announced the strike in a video that has now racked up tens of thousands of views on social media.
Mr Loiseau is taking drastic action to draw attention to his son’s situation and the many others like him.
The 11-year-old boy, who has autism, will not be able to return to school in September, due to a lack of continued support for his condition. The local primary school became an autism specialist school (unité d’enseignement en élémentaire autisme, UEEA) five years ago, but there is no similar secondary provision available nearby.
He said: “We’ve knocked on the doors everywhere. There are no places left, with waiting lists of up to two to seven years.” And yet, he said, everyone has a right to education until at least age 16.
Mr Loiseau’s son will now be required to take lessons at home, via distance schooling agency le Cned (Centre national d’enseignement à distance). This will penalise the child, he said, because he cannot go to school like an “ordinary” child, but also penalise the parents, who will have to stay at home to help teach.
The mayor continued: "We have to fight this battle until we win. We would just like to have an ordinary life. This is punishing us socially and professionally.”
He is set to stand outside the gates of the administrative centre every day from 09:00 to 19:00.
“It's going to be a complicated week,” he said, “But it will be decisive. Desperation and the love for my son are pushing me to do it.”
The mayor said he is striking to call for support for families with children with disabilities, who, he says, are “without a solution” to their children's situation.
He is also set to meet with the Eure department president on Tuesday (May 30), and wants to meet the general management of the ARS (Agence Régionale de Santé) “to get the ball rolling”.
He said: “When an elected representative denounces the failings of the Republic, it sends out a strong signal. [I hope I’ll] give visibility to the families who are suffering. It's impossible for the people at the top to remain silent.”
He added that the issue goes beyond Normandy and even France.
He said: ”I've received messages from Belgium, Switzerland, and La Réunion. Some people have travelled all the way from Tarn-et-Garonne to give me their support. It's very important to fight this battle.”
MP for the fourth constituency of Eure, Philippe Brun, who supports the campaign, has now said that Mr Loiseau will be granted a meeting at the French parliament, l’Assemblée Nationale, this week.
Avec mon ami Georgio #Loiseau, maire et père d'un enfant porteur de handicap qui démarre aujourd'hui sa grève de la faim contre le manque dramatique de places en IME.— Philippe Brun (@p_brun) May 29, 2023
Avec mes collègues députés nous le recevrons à l'Assemblée nationale ce mercredi #hautetfort pic.twitter.com/zkF8WR7qSr