WHEN Joshua Wills, aged 15 (above), is finally back home in Cornwall, his father, Phill, plans to bring him to his second favourite place — after the beach — Truro Cathedral.
Currently in a special unit in Birmingham, where he was first taken in 2012, Joshua, who is 15 and has severe autism, is expected to be home by the end of the month.
It will be the result of tireless campaigning by Mr Wills, who had no idea, when his son was taken to Birmingham, that he and Joshua’s mother would have to travel more than 100,000 miles, over the course of the next three years, to see him every weekend.
At the time, there was no specialist unit in the south-west capable of caring for Joshua, whose condition has caused him to injure himself severely, resulting in several operations, including the removal of part of his tongue. Mr Wills eventually left his job to dedicate himself to a campaign to bring his son home.
He collected 240,000 signatures on a petition, appeared on national media, and enlisted the support of MPs and charities, including Mencap. Cornwall Council and the local NHS have now created a specialist “package of care” that includes a home where trained carers will look after Joshua.
On Thursday, Mr Wills confirmed that Joshua will be making the journey home to Cornwall on 2 November.
Joshua celebrated his birthday on Thursday of last week, and more than 100 people from around the world sent birthday cards that are now on display at Truro Cathedral, where the Canon Pastor, the Revd Lynda Barley, blessed them last week.
The Wills family’s connection to the cathedral goes back generations. Mr Wills’s great-grandfather helped to build it, and his parents are long-standing members of the congregation. Joshua enjoyed the music, and “the peace of the place”, Mr Wills said. "I think it was the size of the place. And they seemed to take him to their hearts. Sometimes he would make a bit of a noise and nobody seemed to mind and for us, that was a big thing. You can’t see autism all the time so Joshua can come across as a bit naughty.”
Canon Barley said on Tuesday that the cathedral Chapter and congregation were looking forward to singing Joshua a “belated happy birthday” on his return. “People took Josh into their hearts,” she said. “We take our inclusivity really seriously. He would come up to the altar rail and kneel, and you could tell he was getting a spiritual experience. It was written all over his face.”
Joshua’s return home will not end Mr Wills’s campaigning work. He is aware of 160 similar children who are away from home. He has still not received a response to the petition.