A LOCAL council has been accused of “discrimination” for refusing to allow a
severely autistic teenager to continue living in shared care accommodation because “he might not get on with people”.
Ciaran Vassie, 19, has lived in shared accommodation for 10 years, but is now being forced out, after East Renfrewshire Council decided it was in his best interests for him to move to social housing on his own.
His mum Colette Walker, 48, is furious with the decision and claims the council are “just trying to save money” after they proposed to house him 58 miles away from his current residence in Edinburgh.
A letter received by Colette last Saturday [25 Apr] reads: “It is believed that Ciaran’s needs would be better met in a home of his own with appropriate support and a range of activities to meet his interest and abilities.”
It goes on to explain that if she chooses to let Ciaran live in Edinburgh and refuses the council’s decision, they will no longer be supporting him.
Colette says that Ciaran, who is also blind, has “thrived” in shared accommodation, sharing a video showing how the teen has learnt to play piano as a result.
Speaking today: Colette said: “I have been fighting for him to stay in Edinburgh as he has been a residential pupil at the Royal School for the Blind since 2010, he is thriving.
“East Renfrewshire Council keep saying we want to move Ciaran back to his ‘own community’.
“They want to drag him to the other side of the country away from his community, where he’ll have to re-learn the environment and find new activities.
“They want to put him in social housing in Neilston or Barrhead, that’s not his community and these are places he’s never been too.
“They told me social care is in his best interest as in shared care accommodation he might not get on with people, referring to his autism. That’s utter discrimination.
“Ciaran even said in an independent report he would rather stay in shared care accommodation. The treatment against disabled people is appalling.
“They first offered social housing with a telecare communicator and a carer who visited for ten hours.
“I was like over my dead body he’s not getting that. What happens if there was a fire or something like the beast from the east?
“He won’t understand what’s happening. He needs someone to comfort him when this goes on.
“There are no legal rights for transitioning children into adult services. They are refusing this option as they just don’t want to pay for him.”
Labour MSP for Glasgow, Johann Lamont, is currently pushing a bill to help young people in Ciaran’s situation and has been consulting with Colette.
The MSP today said: “Young people with a disability deserve a proper and fair system of support as they make the transition to adulthood.
“My proposed Transitions Bill would give additional rights and support by placing a statutory duty on local councils to prepare and introduce a transitions plan for each disabled young person to improve outcomes in their transition to adulthood.”
A spokeswoman for East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership said: “A significant amount of work has gone into assessing Ciaran’s needs in order for us to conclude the best living arrangements for him, now he is no longer attending school.
“The assessment has been extensive – including one of our Lead Nurses working with Ciaran for around a year – and has been completed in conjunction with his family and in line with all our policies and the relevant legislation.
“We believe it is in his long term best interests to live independently as an adult in East Renfrewshire.
“We are also committed to a positive working relationship with Ciaran and his family and would welcome a call (as in person meetings are not possible just now) to discuss, and hopefully address, their concerns.”
However, Colette has refuted East Renfrewshire Council’s statement, adding: “They claim they have worked with me. Well I have always wanted Ciaran to stay in Edinburgh, and shared care.
“It’s all about their view not Ciaran’s and not mine. They have no proof that East Renfrewshire is better for him, nor that living in shared care is having a negative impact on him, as he has lived this way for 10 years.
“They state ‘they concluded’ so as said, they seemingly know my son better than me. My lawyer is putting in a bid for legal aid as she thinks it a disgrace, and would cause him so much stress moving back to East Renfrewshire.
“I want evidence to back up their claims.”