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Disowned and Disabled

Tue Oct 29, 9-10pm, BBC4

Episode one
Despite the horrors of recent cases in Bradford and London, the protection of vulnerable children has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Don’t believe us? This film (the first of two) reveals the world of scarcely believable emotional and physical pain faced by orphaned, neglected, abused and disabled children in our fairly recent past.

Parts of this film are genuinely nightmarish: the 1945 case of Newport brothers Dennis and Terry O’Neill, who were fostered by a farmer – who used them as slave labour, left them so undernourished they were forced to drink from the udders of cows and who eventually beat Dennis to death – will haunt you for days. But even if the changes triggered by the emergence of this devastating story often feel like progress of the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ variety, then progress it surely is. Watch and count a few blessings.

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