Abused by the Local Authority

Abused by the Local Authority

Below is a summary of a conversation that I had with a close friend last week.  Of course, I have removed all emotion: crying, hyperventilating in panic and so on.  Fearing for your child like this brings with it intense panic and fear.

After months of barely managing, of pleading for help, assessments and a suitable school placement of her Year 5 child, my friend attended a meeting.  It comprised my friend, the Local Authority Case Worker, a Social Worker and a ‘school representative’.  It became apparent almost instantly that the entire meeting had been rehearsed by the other attendees.  In summary, this is what happened:

“In the meeting, I was told by the LA Case Worker that I have to send her back to the school that had caused her distress to become severe.  (This school has demonstrated that they neither understand nor meet her needs).  Until now I had co-operated fully with the LA but I know it will cause massive harm if I even try to send her back to this school.  The LA haven’t considered any other provision”.  

Then this, in same the meeting:

“The Social worker told me that if I didn’t send her back to this school then he would start proceedings to have my child removed and they would allege that I was failing to co-operate with the services.  This social worker has met with me once and has never met the children or visited our home.”  

Previous involvement and assessments by social care for this and my other disabled child resulted in clear advice that there were no concerns re parenting.

“So my choice is now to either:

  1. send her to a school that I know will lead to a severe breakdown of her mental health, or
  2. risk having her removed from our family which I know will lead to a severe breakdown of her mental health.”

They were so bold and confident that their abusive strategy would be permitted and supported by ‘the system’ that they were able to be open and upfront about it.

I was horrified and shocked to my core.  I felt sick for a while too (one of those ‘there by the grace of God’ moments, combined with a desperate feeling of worry for this family that I care deeply about).

I am not surprised though.  I am not surprised because I have heard variants of this story a number of times.  One of these was with another close friend.  Last year this friend reviewed the information that came from her LA, and in this case, the evidence was in an email between two staff outlining their plan for my friend’s child.  They recorded their decision to attempt to force this vulnerable child to attend an EBD school a long taxi drive away.  It would have been clear to everyone that he would be terrified there, his already very fragile mental health would deteriorate and also that it would not in anyway meet his academic or therapy needs.  If mother didnt comply, they said they would start accusations…

So to be clear.  They planned to name a school for the child that met none of his needs and then planned to take the parents to court for not sending their child to the school that they knew was inappropriate.  They knew that it wasn’t going to work and their strategy up front was to divert blame onto the parents for this.

And then there are my own experiences.  Records for Peter clearly outline what can only be described as a 3+ year campaign by school staff to prove that all the NHS professionals that had determined that Peter has a number of neurodevelopmental conditions were wrong.  This included collusion by 3 schools and a number of LA employed staff.  All nicely documented by a number of school and LA employees.  And now these records are in my possession.  Their documented strategies included alleging that I was anxious and that that was the cause of the difficulties Peter was facing… (WHEN…. will folk realise that when a child is distressed and poorly understood at school it is NORMAL for the parent to be worried about this?).  When these false allegations failed to work they alleged that I was fabricating his illness, and implied that I was capable of brainwashing a number of senior clinical staff… and brainwashing Peter to present as autistic on demand….. For years.  How ridiculous.  But very real and of course again a not uncommon strategy to avoid making some very minor adaptations to support a child in school.

A friend recently mentioned to me that some LA’s actively ‘risk assess’ parent: assess the risk that they may fight for their child… and amend the child’s support accordingly.  We have no idea if this is an urban myth but it is totally believable all the same.

It’s not just parents that get this treatment it seems.  I know of a teacher who was told alter their views and paperwork and blackmailed with threats of losing her job.  She was just trying to record a child’s needs honestly.

*A note to parents, when you come across teachers that want to get it right – look after the relationship, care for the teacher and be kind.  These staff are the best hope for a better future; are the future leaders, and honestly, being in their position of wanting to help and being abused for this is a living hell too.*

Looking back to the first two examples and I wonder what happens to these human beings to make them like this?  How have they reached a point where they are comfortable to commit to writing a strategy that will lead to the destruction of a child – and to enforce this strategy to plan to misuse the law and take parents to court?  That they will openly discuss with parents that they plan to use social services to bully parents to send their child to a school that will have catastrophic effects.  That they will make heinous plans and be so arrogant about its use tell the parents up front that this will what they will do.

I wonder what it feels like to lack empathy to this degree in a job that no doubt most took on because they wanted to help.  

Everyone in ‘our world’ knows that the system will allow, support in fact, this behaviour.  To those less immersed in the world of SEN: parents really are taken to court. Parents really do have their children removed.  It happens to ordinary families JUST LIKE YOURS.  It’s like a big open secret and it is justified because they have to ‘protect the public purse’ at all costs (literally it seems).  Those of us in these situations know that this is just stupid.  It doesn’t protect the public purse in the long run of course.

When I say ‘the child may be broken’ this isn’t an exaggeration.  Mine was broken by the age of 9.  My bright little boy went from ‘fine in school’ with no additional support to being an inpatient in a psychiatric unit – a story outlined more here.  It happens.  He wasn’t suicidal, but bear in mind the suicide rates for young people with autism are high, unacceptably high.  DJ was also severely harmed by this system and admitted to a psychiatric unit The noise DJ made is something that haunts me still.  He did not sound like my child.  He sounded like a wounded animal crying out in pain.  It was truly heartbreaking and even today I can’t get those sounds out of my head.”  

The system is sick.  Very sick.  Our stories are unbelievable yet they happened, and they aren’t rare.  They are common place within the population of children with “invisible disability’.

For more examples of stories like this then please see the comments below.  If you have a story that relates please consider sharing it in the comments section.  If you want to message us the story and we can add it anonymously.

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11 thoughts on “Abused by the Local Authority

  1. from anon… My daughter has been left with PTSD and severe psychological based tunnel vision as a result of the inappropriate school setting that failed to deliver the provision in her statement and allowed a teacher to openly bully the kids (in a LA special school). When we refused to send her back and requested a different setting camhs (who had decided we were the problem and failed to spot the PTSD etc) and the sen manager tried to invoke a section 47 and planned a meeting about this that we were never supposed to know about. The supportive social worker we had was told to amend the report he had written for tribunal to say the complete opposite by his director that made out our daughter had no needs. I have all the emails that show this was happening and also that the LA had other families complaining about this school. We were lucky that it went nowhere and the LA conceded but over 3 years later my daughter is still physically affected by all this and may be for the rest of her life. We recently got an ombudsman ruling that during this time camhs failed to treat my daughters anxiety, the school failed to deliver the statement and the LA failed to ensure that it was delivered.

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  2. Hello
    I have also faced LA adversity and discrimination towards my son in his education setting.
    I have started a group and petition to challenge the current system as I believe it is failing so many so significantly!
    https://www.change.org/p/secretary-of-state-for-education-rights-and-equality-for-young-people-with-additional-needs-in-education?recruiter=63248739&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink
    I would love to link up as we plan to branch out and become a larger campaign.

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  3. This has been happening to me for a number of years. I have moved borough and it’s followed me. I’ve had SWS lie, 2 incorrect diagnosis by professionals. Bullied into my son going to an autistic school when he’s not autistic. Then having my views dismissed and told I’m not working in the best interest of my son. One SEN LA officer tried to arrange a child in need meeting to bully me into accepting the incorrect diagnosis. I’ve been hospitalised due to stress. Plus my son’s been pushed from pillar to post due to their failings. My son is in mainstream but they are still not providing any support through his EHC plan.
    Have a tribunal hearing in April.

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  4. The parent can get their GP to sign the child off as too anxious to attend school. They should ask for an up to date educational psychologist report and for suppoprt from any local authority team that can give advice to school (e.g. in Birmingham it’s the Communication and Autism Team). The parents should also ask school to put in writing that they don’t believe the diagnosis (which would mean admitting to questioning the professional integrity of the doctor who diagnosed). School should also be asked who is liable for any mental trauma due to ignoring a medical diagnosis.
    If the child has an EHCP they can ask for an emergency meeting for either a change in support or a change of placement. While the child is off under the protection of the GP note, the LA needs to be reminded that they are entitled to a full-time education under the Education Act – but that the SEN Code of Practice also states that reasonable adjustments must be made.
    Go through the complaints procedures, there will be one for the LA and once you’ve exhausted the school complaints procedure you can then complain to Ofsted.
    Complain to the special needs ombudsman: http://www.lgo.org.uk/make-a-complaint/fact-sheets/education/special-educational-needs
    Contact you MP – it’s amazing how people suddenly perk up and do things when they realise an MP is shining a light on proceedings!
    Take someone to meetings who understands the system, a charity worker for example.

    Here’s my website (I offer advice and advocacy for parents of special needs children): http://www.jennymaher.co.uk

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    1. Just to answer some of your points Jenny as despite being good advice, often even that doesn’t work:

      1) GP notes are only accepted temporarily, they will push very quickly for a consultant or CAMHS verification. CAMHS don’t usually have a clue about autism and have a parent blame culture;
      2) I have experience of the LA autism team actually working against parents when push came to shove;
      3) Schools are not that open as to admit they don’t believe a diagnosis in writing. They would (if they even agreed to write something) say e.g. “Little johnny appears very content and settled in school, we do not see any of the issues mum describes and we question whether mum is projecting her anxiety onto little Johnny, causing him to become anxious himself.” They would wriggle their way out of it;
      4) “School should also be asked who is liable for any mental trauma due to ignoring a medical diagnosis.” Tried that (or virtually that), they simply consulted LA lawyers and wriggled out of that one too;
      5) LA providing education, at best the child might get LA tuition, but for that they don’t usually accept GP notes so back to 1) and they will say that the parent chose to keep the child at home so it’s down to the parent not them;
      6) Reasonable adjustments, they will claim they made them and will deny specific ones parents ask for unless it’s spelled out crystal clear in a professional report – so many professional reports (unless private) will avoid making specific recommendations as they all scratch each other’s backs;
      7) complaints procedures in my experience are a total whitewash, even as far as the governors and they simply lie and if you challege it they say they will only look at the procedures that were followed not the evidence and they will interpret everything as they see fit (to your disadvantage);
      8) LGO – dealing with ours right now, they are in their draft report siding in total bias with the LA, believing all their lies and again, interpreting everything as they see fit;
      9) MP – utterly useless, although this might be one area someone could get lucky.l MP promised to step in if unlawfulness could be shown, I showed it and he stopped responding to emails.

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  5. I still remember the terror of being informed that the school were considering having my daughter taken into care, and the stress of pre-empting that by de-registering her and taking her into home education, as advised by my parents’ solicitor. It felt like knowing you are about to drive round a roundabout the wrong way, in the dark, with no headlights… but it’s a decision she now says saved her life. Should I have kept her within the system and fought for recognition of her PDA? No-one had even heard of it back then (2004) down here, the SENCO at her school honestly believed that only boys could be autistic, and our authority is very poorly-funded & help, even for children with fairly-severe problems, almost non-existent. My heart goes out to all in this horrible situation; if I could have one wish, it would be that this never happens to any family ever again…

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