West Norfolk mother’s despair as son misses out on schooling
The mother of an autistic teenager, who has not been in school for nearly 18 months, claims they have both been let down by the authorities.
Stella Owens said that his condition and behaviour have been wrongly diagnosed, that no-one has listened to her concerns or opinions and that her son has become so distressed that he has attempted suicide.
“He has fallen through the cracks time and time again and he is still here at home with me getting no education and no socialising.
“We feel isolated and let down.
“I have become his carer, nurse, teacher, psychiatrist. It is difficult even to get out to do the shopping.”
Miss Owens, aged 34, said that her son, who is 15 and her only child, spent five years at a special needs school and was doing well until changes were made at the school and it became busier. His behaviour changed and he was suspended last year and has not been allowed to return.
Her efforts to have his condition reassessed in the hope he could go back were refused and she ended up taking him to London and paying out £2,000 of her own money for a private consultation which resulted him being diagnosed with moderately severe ASD.
“The school still refused to take him back and he couldn’t understand why,” she said. “Ideally he would have a place at a residential school where he would have stability but nothing materialised and, of course, he has been at home since the spring and the lockdown.”
Miss Owens, who lives in a village near Downham, said that she had been chasing up possible schools herself because the education authorities had failed her.
She claims that she had also been let down by the health authorities who refused to give him medication she alleges he needed and that this led to his suicide attempt.
She said that an investigation is currently underway involving the hospitals and Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust.
Miss Owens is highlighting her son’s case after reading in the Lynn News about criticism of Norfolk County Council from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
This followed a case where a family had to hire their own tutor to the a boy with special educational needs and were awarded compensation.
Miss Owens said that she wanted it known that that was not an isolated case and that there are others, like her son, have been just as seriously let down.
Leader of the Independent group on Norfolk County Council, Sandra Squire, is also a mum and has two autistic children.
Learning about Miss Owens’ case, she said: “This is disappointing. Education is so important. The county council has a legal responsibility to provide education for children. I know there is a shortage of special places available but this has gone on for too long”.
She said that this is not a new problem and she wonders how many others there are in the queue.
“It keeps happening and it is not good enough,” she said.
A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council said: ”While we worked hard to find a place that can meet this child’s needs, contacting more than 20 specialist residential providers and offering places at two different schools, we understand that their family do not feel that these are right for them.
“As the case is now subject to legal proceedings, it would not be appropriate for Norfolk County Council to provide further comment but we would highlight that we are progressing all of the matters raised as part of these legal proceedings in full collaboration with the child’s family.”