Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Autism In Mind press release in response to Children Schools and Families Bill

PRESS RELEASE  Tuesday January 12th

Department for Children, Schools and Families Fail to make reasonable adjustments for children with disabilities.

Autism-in-Mind (AIM) is dismayed that the Department for Children Schools and

Families have failed to make reasonable adjustments for children with disabilities in

their response to the public ‘Elective Home Education Consultation’ and are continuing to insist

that all home educated children must be visited in their homes by their Local Authorities.

AIM wrote to Ed Balls on January 4th regarding the issue of proposed home visits. We

can find no evidence that an Equalities Impact Assessment was carried out to see if home visits

could potentially impact negatively on autistic children or children with a disability or special

educational needs.  Nor does it appear that advisory groups or parents of children being home

educated were consulted in relation to the Impact Assessments. We are still awaiting a

response to our letter.

Yesterday’s response to the Elective Home Education Consultation confirms that the most

controversial areas regarding home education in the Bill were the proposals to see children in

the home or other location where education is carried  out however the DCSF have decided


‘local authorities should visit the place where education is taking place, which will usually be the family home, as part of their monitoring work.’

This effectively means that the DCSF will not be making reasonable adjustments for children

who have an autistic spectrum condition or disability who can find it very distressing to have

people who they do not know coming into their homes.

The majority of home educated autistic children have been removed from the state system of

education because it was failing to meet their complex needs. Some of these children were self-

harming and even suicidal as a result of the state system. The prospect of having to have those

who failed their children now coming into their homes to ensure that the educational and

welfare needs of their children are being met, is for many parents totally unacceptable.

The report goes on to state that home visits;

‘would allow local authorities to ensure that the home is in a suitable condition and is free from any factors that might interfere with the provision of education, such as a lack of power and/or heating, or severe overcrowding, for example.’

AIM finds this very worrying as families living with autism rarely conform to what society would

see as the norm and this includes the way in which they live at home. AIM has already raised

concerns that LA officials often have no autism or SEN specific training and therefore have no

idea what living with autism can be like.

It is all too easy for someone without the necessary and specific training to take in a scene

which can be perfectly normal for a family living with autism and deem it to be unacceptable.

How can we be sure that this is not going to happen when an LA official has to decide if the

home of an autistic child is in a suitable condition for that child to be educated?

We find it ironic that further on in the report that the DCSF states;

‘It is unsatisfactory that there is no shared, up to date, concept of what constitutes a “suitable” education.’

yet believes that it is satisfactory for LA officials to decide if the home is a suitable place for a

child to be receiving an education.

Can we be sure that there is going to be a concept of what constitutes a suitable home and that

people who have a good understanding of autism and how it can present differently in every

child are going to be consulted and listened to before that concept is shared with LAs?

Children can not shelve their disabilities just to enable to DCSF to make sure that safe and well

and suitable education checks are carried out in their home. As it stands it is difficult not to

believe that home educated children with disabilities are being discriminated against.

Had this Government made sure that families living with autism were all given the opportunity

of a key worker whom they were in regular contact with then families who are home educating

their autistic children would have no cause for concern right now. As it is, the only families who

AIM knows who have key workers are those who have reached crisis point and have had to

fight for a key worker to help them during their time of crisis.

National Services Framework - Standard 8 key worker for children and young people with complex needs to provide single point of contact and help obtain services required.

AIM was founded in 2000 and is the only voluntary group who are specifically supporting home

educators who are educating their autistic children at home.


Tech said...

This separatism really worries me. What if they agree to amend the bill in the way that AIM appears to be suggesting? That would leave those of us whose children don't have a label of some kind left to the wolves. I don't like this at all, sorry :(

Anonymous said...

Tech - are you saying you think what Carole is saying is SEN children esp those with Autism shouldn't have visits but the rest should?

I read it as Carole fighting the ground for children like hers, but not saying anything at all about children who are not like hers IYSWIM...? ie not saying the rest should have visits, just not saying anything at all about the rest. I know Carole confines her campaigning to the remit covered by AIM so would not normally say anything about general EHE....

Am I wrong? Is this just a case of different interpretation?

Maire said...

Tech I read it as Anonymous did. I think we all come a this from our many and varied directions and hopefully not an inch will remain unopposed. The whole situation is very worrying, depressing and disheartening though. We have stepped into a horror movie and I didn't even enjoy them when they were fantasy.

Tech said...

I have a lot of respect for Carole, don't get me wrong, she does amazing work. But I do think that this is a worrying development, yes. I am not alone in thinking that the Bad Man report seemed to support a two tier system whereby those with SEN would be treated better than those without. I am cynical enough to believe that this was deliberate as there are a large number of HE SEN children, and it would be another great divide in the HE *community*.

Remember the single parent back to work campaign the other year? Certain org was campaigning for special treatment for HEers, when the argument should never have been about special treatment for one sector of the community. I see it as the same kind of thing but within one minority community.

I do understand that AIM's purpose is solely to do with Autistic children, but I think it is a very worrying development when gov is being asked to make concessions for a particular group within a group. Apart from anything else, I know of children who are HE who are on the spectrum but who don't have a DX - where does something like this leave them?

Sorry, I still think it is an ill thought out PR.

Tech said...

"Autism-in-Mind (AIM) is dismayed that the Department for Children Schools and

Families have failed to make reasonable adjustments for children with disabilities in

their response to the public ‘Elective Home Education Consultation’ and are continuing to insist

that all home educated children must be visited in their homes by their Local Authorities. "

What other way is there to read that first paragraph?

Maire said...

Tech I think a lot of home ed kids would need a diagnosis if in school (not that that would necessarily help as I know well) and I see this as a plus point. If they ever did offer to make concessions to a certain section of the home ed population a huge fuss could be made about this fact.

I may be being naive but I don't think that those with diagnosed autistic children would say ta very much and leave the rest of us to get on with it. I think it is more a case of chipping away one bit at a time from every angle.

I also think that the only way the organisation has a voice it to concentrate on those it is campaigning for but I am sure it is very aware of the children on the spectrum who haven't been able to get a diagnosis or who haven't needed one because of home education.

About your last comment, I still don't see how pointing out that the visit will be disastrous for autistic children especially is saying that it is OK to visit other home ed children. The way I see it is that we have all said it is a very bad idea and AIM has come in and said yes and you haven't done this and you haven't thought of that.

Perhaps a note about it being a bad idea for all children and about many AS children not having a diagnosis would have helped, but press releases have to be punchy and to the point so I can sort of understand it.

We have no diagnosis of autism in this family so I am not being influenced by that, I think the biggest danger in the divide and rule stakes is thoughtless actions by a certain other org! But I think and hope that we are brighter than that.

Tech said...

So AIM isn't asking for alterations to the bill that will specifically apply to those with diagnosis of Autism?

Maire said...

Off to an ice skating meet, brrr who needs more cold? Will get back to you later.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tech

What Carole is leading up to is actually a legal/technical challenge. That is she has found out that the gvt have majorly broken the rules - so much so the whole thing could be thrown out. This is not the minor bendings like "taking into account" allegedly the consultation responses before publishing the bill but not publishing the report until the night before the second reading. This is actually major stuff.

Personally I don't care what gets the thing chucked out, so long as it gets chucked out. Do you?

Maire said...

Thanks Anonymous you have put into words what I was struggling to comprehend. Sorry for not getting back sooner Tech, I have been thinking about it along the lines of what anonymous says and also that once you make concessions for one group of children it weakens the argument and could give us a lever to argue for all children. Appallingly put sorry, you can see why I haven't posted before.

Tech said...

Hello *anonymous* - must say I find it most disconcerting being addressed by my name but not being able to do the same back.

Clearly you are privy to information that the common or garden home educator is not. Wonderful if there is actually going to be some kind of legal challenge, but frankly, having watched the NAS spokesperson giving evidence yesterday, I am still inclined to believe that this is going to go horribly wrong for the rest of us as a result of what, from where I'm sitting, now looks more like game playing. Shrugs.

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