Isabel’s first bite in her NAS school
We had continually sought a 38 week placement, but the National Autistic Society was only prepared to offer a 52 week one.
The only reason given, Isabel had ‘problems with transitions’, and needed to be able to walk to school.
She did not.
She had that year, as with every other year, visited Ireland twice by train, bus, and plane.
Issy’s reluctance to get in the school van, and stay in the taxi, was because she did not want to go to school, not the ‘transition’ per se.
Yet, ’ problems with transitions’, continued to be, the NAS head teacher’s mantra in meetings.
Such is the nonsense allowed, to justify £177,000, tax free per annum, get Issy off the social services books, and remove her from her family.
A chance remark by my husband to the NAS team leader, that he would like Issy home for a weekend, immediately, prompted a letter from our solicitor, warning us, if we continued to insist on a 38 week, which we hadn’t, care proceeding, would be reinstated.
Such was the bullying.
And the illegality, as Isabel, had not been assessed for any placement.
This ‘assessment’, NAS said, would be during the first 6 months of her stay, but this did not happen, and, was not mentioned again.
So the court approved, and the NHS, and LA paid for, a placement, that we opposed, and for which, Isabel had not been assessed.
I prepared an album of photos, some with bubble stickers saying, ‘Mummy loves Issy very much’.
And I recorded a DVD, of her mantras, routine, favourite food, videos/DVDs, and that she liked being tickled and messages from us..
But it was ignored, and never referred to by staff.
Such was Issy’s itinerant, impersonal, prescribed, yet charged for, ‘specialist’ autistic charity ‘care’.
We tricked poor Issy into leaving for her new home, by a return journey to the poo clinic, but drove past the hospital, and for a further 20 miles.
Isabel looked sad, but resigned, as if she had always known, this was inevitable.
She went freely with a care worker to the swings, whilst we were shown her new home, by the team leader.
It was a sparsely furnished, bare walled, clinical box, with a small view of a wall.
I offered to put up the pictures from her bedroom, but the team leader said this was not allowed, as blue tac would damage the walls.
With a pained expression of concern, she empathised, ’this must be the hardest thing a parent could ever do’.
But, did not consider, let alone discuss, why we were doing it.
Tissue boxes, were strategically placed in the reception, and office.
The buildings resembled Auschwitz.
Our social worker handed us a form to sign.
It was our s20 Childrens Act consent.
We had not been told the effect of such consent, or, that it would be required.
Once signed, Isabel would be, ‘a looked after child’, without a court order.
A prerequisite, to the NHS, Social Services and Education £177,000 per annum funding.
So this was why we had been dragged through the care courts.
In the confines of Issy’s dimly lit bedroom, it felt like signing a prison warrant.
I asked pathetically, did we have to sign.
She replied, if we didn’t, we’d have to take Isabel back .
My last glimpse of Issy, was from the car as we drove off.
I strained to see if she was happy on the swing.
I remained numb throughout the journey home, we did not know when, we would see Issy again.
Suddenly, on arrival, the strongest feeling I had ever experienced, hit me full on, Issy was gone.
Dark days followed. We wept silently.
We were allowed our first visit, 2 weeks later, in a cramped ‘family room’ for 3 hours, and similar weekly.
Issy was a sorry sight.
She had started to pull her hair out, and bald patches were clearly visible.
She had contracted conjunctivitis in one eye.
None of this had ever occurred at home.
She was also bitten badly, three times, in two weeks, by the same boy.
We could not help her.
Nor even comfort her.
Who could we complain to about National Autistic Society care ?
The Social Services, Department of Education, NHS and courts, who had approved her placement?
We were, as are all autistics, and their families, powerless.
Eventually after 2 months, we felt happier, having negotiated 3 home weekends every month, 2 weeks holiday in Derry Northern Ireland near her relatives at Christmas, Easter, Summer, and a week in Mahon, Minorca.
Issy 11 in Mahon.
Isabel was, as she would always be, a child of the state, but at least, we had her for a third of the year.
And NAS, ever commercially aware, could make even more money, as there was no deduction in their £177,000 per annum payment.
And, each month they asked for pocket money, and towards clothes.
We received £80 per month in DLA.
Isabel attended school fairly regularly in the first years , we attended 6 monthly reviews, and an education review at the school, and picked her up and dropped her off every weekend, bar one.
Her ‘education’, which, we naively, had had high hopes for in an autistic school, was not fit for purpose.
Her P scale attainments, lower than the SATs she achieved at 7.
She stopped reading, and could no longer write her name.
And received certificates for knowing the letters of the alphabet, which she had known, and could write at 7 phonetically.
The extortionate amount of money paid for this ‘education’, justified by her ‘condition’, which had been caused by a previous inappropriate school, and an impaction.
And the fact, the authorities were prepared to pay any amount, to get ‘these children’ off their books, and out of society.
Yet at the same time running million pound campaigns like ‘Tolerate Difference not Indifference’,’ Autism Awareness’, etc.
The 38 week placements had vans home to Sheffield, but Issy was not allowed in them, as she was not insured.
So, Eleanor. Seamus and I picked her up, and dropped her off, every weekend.