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Dealing With Autism

View profile for Andrew Barrowclough
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Recently, we heard the tragic story of a mother who committed suicide after the Local Authority Social Services Department refused to provide funding for her autistic child’s residential placement. Carol Barnett was 51 years old when she took her own life after years of struggling to cope with her daughter’s condition. The story of Carol Barnett is harrowing, but unfortunately not unique. Many full-time carers feel the weight of their responsibility leaves their own condition of life halved and find it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While Carol was the biggest supporter of her daughter and cared for her on a full-time basis, it’s easy to see how alone she may have felt with such a lack of support from the Authority. Any reasonable Authority, acting in adherence with their statutory duties, should have acted proactively to support the family by ensuring that an appropriate social care assessment was undertaken and thereafter issued a comprehensive care plan to provide support to her carers. However, without this, the struggle to look after a severely autistic child can be mentally draining.  In circumstances like that of Mrs Barnett, it is imperative that Social Services provide appropriate support for both the child and the parents.

The NHS Community Care Act 1990 states that those with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) or carers of the autistic are entitled to Community Care, which involves a range of options to facilitate their lives. This includes adaptation of the home to suit specific needs or the opportunity of residential placement for those with severe autism.

If the person coping with autism is a child, support should also come from the Education Department, who are responsible for the evaluation of their needs. Once an assessment of their needs has been made, the child should then be issued with an Education Health and Care Plan (England) or Statement of Special Educational Needs (Wales).  The document should state the name of a school that is appropriate for the child and suited to their needs, which in this case should clearly have been one offering residential provision.

In this case, the Local Authority seems to have overlooked the importance of meeting the needs of a severely autistic child, something that they are legally entitled to ensure at all times. Carol was looking after her child for 24 hours of the day, assisting with her every need, and it is clear that she needed further support. While Carol’s death may not have been as a direct result of the Local Authority’s decision, it is clear that this had a huge impact on how she saw her future. In tragic circumstances like these, Local Authorities need to act in a timely fashion to support parents/carers of the autistic.

At HCB, we understand that carers of people with an ASD should never have to face the struggle alone. Our team of experienced professionals are at hand to listen and understand your unique situation to advise you and assist you as best possible.  If you have questions or concerns relating to dealing with autism, then please contact a member of our team who will happily discuss your options.