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:
- send her to a school that I know will lead to a severe breakdown of her mental health, or
- 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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