Tuesday, May 12, 2009


There's more on the story of Rotherham's treatment of a family who are home educating a disabled child.

A Child Protection Conference, on the surface of it, seems very heavy-handed. We are talking here about the invocation and use of Section 47 of the Children Act 1989:

"47) 1. Where a local authority....

(b) have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,

the authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare."

What have this family done to earn such suspicion, one wonders? According to HEors who specialise in supporting HEing families with disabilities, this sort of situation is not unusual and appears to result from the fact that statistically children with disabilities are much more likely to suffer abuse. The Social Services get worried, and prefer to cover their backs.

SS also apparently get worried because specialists such as paediatricians, educational psychologists, speech or occupational therapists may have stated that the child needs to be in school to learn from their peers, or needs specialist teaching or therapy. Any suggestion that the parent is withdrawing from therapy services can be construed as neglect of medical needs, despite the fact that they may well be withdrawing the child from school precisely because these services were not meeting the child's needs.

However Social Services don't need to prove their reasons for their concerns at the Child Protection Conference. All they need to do is raise enough doubt so that other professionals at the conference don't feel they can confidently say "I know this child will be OK and there is no need for the family to be monitored." The SS often come up with the accusation of emotional abuse or neglect of educational and social needs which given the subjective and often prejudiced nature of such judgements, particularly with regard to LAs ignorant view of home education, could be very hard to disprove.

For parents of disabled children who have experienced both the schooling system and home education, the double standards are very hard to tolerate. Home educators seem to be held to far, far higher account. One parent commented:

"From the fuss they kick up you'd think schools, both special needs and mainstream, were providing what disabled children needed. This is so far from the truth.

Where are the SS when the school forget to feed a child, don't provide a communication aid, don't provide escorts on the bus who can administer medication, don't fulfil the child's social needs cos they are strapped into a chair, have a wheelchair that is too small and is hurting them, are bullied because of their special needs????

Grrr with nobs on."

The Rotherham family are now in touch with the local HE group but it rather looks as if they will be needing yet more by the way of specialist HE support in order to be allowed to do the best for their child.


Ruth said...

I think it is outrageous tbh. I saw the family on T.V and this just pure discrimation, coupled with ignorance of HE and a large amount of petty minded power playing by a bunc of so called experts who need to get on with their real jobs instead of hounding innocent families. I feel for them having been within a gnats bottom of this twice just cos I HE disabled kids. The message seems to be it is O.K for schools not to meet the childs needs but woe betide any parent who dares to instead:( We are upstarts for even thinking we can. I see CP issues becoming common on HE grounds alone. It is a form of bullying already hard pressed families doing their best. What gets to me is how bad schools are. Where is the arrogance they can do better in the face of overwelming evidence they can't, coming from?

Anonymous said...

There seems to be more of these horrible cases coming up.
I can't add much. When I was still working one of my 'jobs' was to go to primary schools and teach basic first aid. I would ask if there were any illnesses or disabilities staff wanted to know about as well.
One school asked for info on sickle cell. So off I went.
Now I was to give ONE session only but assumed that as this school had a few children with sickle cell that staff would be more or less aware anyway.
Well I was so wrong!
They admitted to forcing kids out in the cold when they complained of pain because they thought they were just trying it on. They had no idea how tired those children can get, or how painful joints can be.
Basically they knew NOTHING.
I would like to think that after my session they went on to learn some more; but do you know what. I bet they didn't bother.

Schools need to be sorted out.
HE families need to left alone. We can support one another thanks.

In fact as I get my head around the fact my oldest has t1 diabetes it is homeschoolers and home edders who have been the most supportive!

Anonymous said...

This is what has been happpening to my son and I for the past two years. I elected to home educate and was refused by the LA, despite the fact I had previously home educated my son for years with no problems. There is indisputable prejudice and discrimination against parents of children with disabilities. On the plus side, my son is still being home educated and doing very well!

Carlotta said...

I am very sorry to hear this Anon. I have recently heard of a family (not from my own LA) who have been threatened with a School Attendance Order despite the fact that the mother seems to be doing stirling work with her children. They are out and about all the time, see others, are not hidden, and despite some unusual needs, are clearly doing very well. Yet the pressure upon this poor mum who has very good reason to believe that a return to school would be disastrous for her son, is absolutely enormous.