Family of austistic teenager wins £5k after council maladministration
THE family of a severely autistic teenager is set to receive £5,000 compensation after a council was found guilty of maladministration for failing to meet his education and care needs.
Jamie Golightly was left "extremely distressed" and aggressive, put on a stone in weight, and was regularly coming home caked in his own excrement because he was unable to cope at college.
An ombudsman's report today blamed Staffordshire County Council for a catalogue of delays in reviewing and monitoring his special needs provision and ensuring his respite care continued after his 18th birthday.
It also highlighted how Jamie's desperate parents, Jacquie and David, had been left in the dark about his speech and language therapy being stopped. Their son is an 'elective' mute, so was unable to voice concerns himself.
Mrs Golightly, from Westbury Park, Newcastle, revealed today she had been driven to the brink of suicide by the traumatic experience.
The 43-year-old added: "I was looking into a black pit of years of wrangling, broken promises, empty words and futile attempts to secure adequate support and provision."
Jamie, who is now almost 19, had been attending Abbey Hill School, in Bucknall, before he turned 16. At the time, the school did not educate post-16 students, so he had to find a new placement.
The county council was supposed to have started this transition planning two years earlier.
But Jamie's family were not told of the options and he simply transferred to Blackfriars School, which has a further education department in Bucknall.
The report notes there was no individual support in place and students were taught in large groups, as they were seen as having greater independence.
Mrs Golightly said: "Within a couple of days, we realised he just wasn't able to cope with the college environment. From September 2009 until November 2010, we had an awful time."
Mrs Golightly asked the council for a fresh assessment and for Jamie to be enrolled at The Meadows School, in Leek, instead.
The local authority agreed to the new school, but wouldn't pay for transport as it considered places closer to home could meet his needs.
The council later put forward a compromise, offering Jamie a vacant seat in a taxi taking another pupil to The Meadows, but the family turned it down.
Mrs Golightly now drives 60 miles a day to take Jamie to and from school.
But she said: "Jamie is thriving now. He's in a small class – the class is their home."
She welcomed the ombudsman's findings, adding: "I am just glad we've managed to get to this point.
"My son is leaving school in July and we hope he will get daycare support."
Local government ombudsman Jane Martin said Jamie and his family had suffered "significant injustice", even after their concerns were investigated by the council.
As well as the compensation, she has recommended the local authority pay £250 to Mrs Golightly for her time and trouble in pursuing the complaint.
Councillor Mike Lawrence, cabinet member for children's well-being, said: "We would like to apologise unreservedly to the family concerned in this case, and to reassure them we are taking the necessary action to try to ensure this will not happen to anyone else in the future."