AN MP has urged Bournemouth council to do more to help the family of a child suffering with severe autism.
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, has written a letter to the service director for children’s social care at the council to highlight the plight of four-year-old Harry Jackson.
Harry is severely autistic, has significant learning difficulties, global developmental delay and is non-verbal.
His father, Peter Jackson, said he first approached the council more than a year ago to seek support and claims he was told by a social worker nothing was wrong with Harry and was refused direct payment for respite provision.
“They told us that autism was not classed as a disability,” he added.
“But Harry needs constant supervision in the home, at school and out in the community.”
Mr Jackson described how Harry is unable to communicate, has irregular sleeping patterns and cannot be left alone with younger brother David.
“Harry is biting his hands leaving them red raw, sometimes to the extent he gags and makes himself sick. He has severely bitten David’s middle finger in the past, which resulted in significant trauma to the tip of his finger.
“I don't believe Harry wishes to cause harm, he has an overwhelming sensory feedback requirement, which we need help with.
“I work full-time and at times am required to spend the night away when travelling long distance. This puts my wife under immense pressure especially during times of sickness.
“We cannot afford help in the home so everything rests on my wife. She is physically and mentally worn out. If she gets four hours sleep a night she is lucky.”
Mr Jackson said the council had suggested courses and activity days for the family to attend, but that they have proved inappropriate for Harry because of the severe nature of his condition in comparison to others on the spectrum who are able to take benefit from them.
He added that the strain of caring for Harry with so little help is having an impact on the health of his family and wrote to Mr Ellwood because he felt like the family was not being listened to.
Mr Ellwood said the council do have discretionary powers to make further provisions for respite assistance.
“This is a very deserving case and I would urge the council to reconsider it,” he added.
• Autism is a disability
A spokesperson for the council denied that autism is not classed as a disability.
Ann-Marie Dodds, service manager for early family support services, said: “We are working very closely with the family, as we would with any family requiring support and guidance on how to meet their child’s needs.
"Regular meetings are taking place with the parents as part of the assessment process of the child to monitor his progress and put in place appropriate measures to support them.
“We are currently working with the family to help them access activities in the community.
"However, if the community activities and services currently in place are assessed as not be sufficient, further consideration will be made to request additional services such as short breaks.”