Autistic children ‘were let down’, claims Burnley MP

Gordon Birtwistle

Gordon Birtwistle

First published in News
Last updated
Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Local government reporter

BURNLEY MP Gordon Birtwistle highlighted three children with autism he claimed had been let down by Lancashire County Council, in a special debate at Westminster.

He told education minister Edward Timpson the cases were examples of how nationally thousands of young sufferers were ‘left on the scrapheap’.

The Liberal Democrat led the 90-minute House of Commons debate on ‘Education Provision for Children with Autism’.

Mr Birtwistle raised three constituency cases - Chloe, Honey and Jack - as their parents watched from the public gallery.

He said it was important to ‘identify the struggle that exists for children with autism to receive appropriate education’ when faced with ‘poor local provision and unofficial exclusions’.

After the debate, county schools boss Matthew Tomlinson said: "We strongly dispute the way in which individual cases have been inaccurately presented and used as the basis for sweeping criticism of special education provision in Lancashire.”

Mr Birtwistle began with 17-year-old Chloe. The MP said she was: “Now on suicide watch due to being repeatedly failed by Lancashire County Council since the age of 11.”

He then raised Jack Entwistle. He said he was: “A nine-year-old autistic boy who should currently be enjoying his school holidays. Unfortunately he has been out of education for three months already.

“He is at a critical age educationally and developmentally and, as yet unfortunately, has been failed by Lancashire County Council.”

The MP then highlighted Honey, a midly autistic 12-year-old girl. He said she had been “moved six months into her final year of primary school due to trauma and threat of exclusion”.

Mr Birtwistle said: “It’s not just Lancashire County Council. This will be happening all over.

“Should this minority of children just be left on the scrapheap?”

Coun Tomlinson said: "It is unforgivable and irresponsible that a misleading portrayal of individual parents' grievances should be allowed to undermine the faith that hundreds of families have in our special schools.

"We are justly proud of the quality of provision made for children with autism and other special educational needs.”

Mr Timpson said the new Children and Families Act would ease the ‘unending battles’ parents of autistic youngsters often faced over schooling.

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