‘Passed from pillar to post’ - Mum of autistic boy twice failed by council tells of her family’s struggle
- Credit: Amy Hunter
The mum of an autistic boy twice failed by Norfolk County Council has told of how the ordeal has left her without a job and fighting depression - and still feels his needs could be better met.
Amy Hunter, of Aerodrome Crescent in Thorpe St Andrew has twice sought the help of the ombudsman after County Hall failed to provide suitable education for her 10-year-old son Dylan.Dylan is a bright and intelligent boy, but has a number of complex educational needs, including autism, which make it extremely difficult for him to operate in a traditional school setting.
He was permanently excluded from his first school - St Williams Primary - in November 2017 but the county council initially failed to find a suitable alternative, resulting in Ms Hunter, 40, complaining to the ombudsman for the first time.
And earlier this year, the ombudsman again ruled in her favour after the county council once more failed to provide him with suitable education for a sustained period of time - meaning that Ms Hunter has spend seven months home-schooling Dylan in the past three years.
A second school - Falcon Junior - also did not fit his needs. However, children’s services at County Hall failed to act on advice from a child psychologist advising them of this.
Ms Hunter, who previously worked as a lecturer at the UEA, said: “I feel like I’ve been passed from pillar to post these past few years and still don’t feel Dylan is getting the support he needs. He is now in a school we are happy with, but while his education is being provided, he is not getting any support socially to make up for how much of that he lost not being in school.
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“It just feels like there isn’t really a great deal of understanding of his autism and the impact this has had on him over the last three years.
“It has also really affected me - I had to give up my job to be able to look after him, had to pay for home tutoring and having to keep fighting for him is physically and emotionally draining.
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“The county council really needs to take better ownership of things, not just for him but for so many other children like him.”
She added that Dylan’s situation has also had psychological impact on the child himself, as well as her family as a whole.
She added: “It’s really tough for his younger brother too, who is always asking why Dylan is so angry all the time. When Dylan was not at school and people saw him out with me, they would make comments that made him feel like we were doing something wrong.”
John Fisher, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This case reflects the national pressure that all local authorities across the country are experiencing when it comes to meeting the ever increasing demand from families for SEND support for their children.
“Like other local authorities, we have found it difficult to keep up with increasing demand in this area and we are sorry for that. But we have pledged to work with our health and education partners – and of course families – to improve services for children with special educational needs in our county and we have an ambitious strategy to address it, which Ofsted inspectors recognised in a recent report.
“We’re already investing £120m in special educational needs and disabilities to create more specialist places and we’re increasing our support to schools, so that they can help their children earlier. We’ve also increased capacity in our specialist teams and, as inspectors said, this is starting to make a real difference to children and their families. We are also confident that our future reporting to our People and Communities Select Committee will help to identify service improvements.
“Alongside other councils, and to inform the Government’s review of SEND, we continue to highlight the challenges that we are all facing and to call for a national approach to help resolve it.”