The model, entrepreneur and non-writing bestselling author Katie Price’s eldest son, Harvey, turned 18 last year. He was born with Septic Optic Dysplasia, a disorder that affects his brain function, hormone levels and many other things. On the cusp of adulthood, Harvey has the cognitive ability of a 7-year-old, weighs 28 stone and is prone to outbursts of destructive violence, as shown by the cratered walls of Price’s house.
Despite his condition, turning 18 means a change in his care as he moves into the adult system. For Kate Price: Harvey and Me (BBC One), a documentary crew follows mother and son as they investigate the possible next steps. For someone as sensitive to their environment as Harvey, who can be upset by the sound of a door shutting, the transition must be handled with great care. If they can’t find a suitable college, the local authority has the power to section him and forcibly put him into another institution.
For those who only know Price as a fixture in the tabloids, it may be a surprise to see her as the down-to-earth single mother of five (two of her younger children make brief appearances in the film) trying to do her best in unbelievably difficult circumstances. Managing anyone with a condition as severe as Harvey’s would be a test, but his size and strength make it even harder. When he doesn’t want to do something, nobody can make him.
For all her celebrity, from the look of things Price has had a rough time of it over the past few years. She has been declared bankrupt and banned from driving. Near the start of the film, she breaks both her heels on holiday in Turkey, so spends the rest of it driving around in a mobility scooter, her legs in boots, as she takes Harvey round various institutions to see if any appeal to his unique needs. Even if one can be found, there is still the matter of applying to the council for funding. She speaks to other parents with children in similar situations. A conversation with a woman called Isabelle, whose son Matthew was sectioned, is especially upsetting. “Even though it wasn’t my fault, and I couldn’t control it” she says, fighting tears, “I still felt such guilt that I couldn’t protect him.” In the rare moments of grace, as when Harvey chats with an old friend, or watches his beloved trains arrive and depart the station, you can see the relief blooming in Price’s face.
The film doesn’t expand much beyond its immediate subjects, or push the boat out compositionally. The conventions of the format dictate a reasonably hopeful ending, but it’s clear that the difficulties for a child like Harvey don’t end when they become adults, and that caring for them is a lifelong duty. The parents – usually mothers, to judge by the interviews here – deserve every ounce of sympathy and support, regardless of how often they’ve appeared in Hello! magazine.