So it has finally been made, the ruling from the local authority on how Lucy's needs are going to be satisfied. They met for their panel meeting last week and I spoke with Jane, who heads up their Inclusion and SEN (special education needs) area. She explained how long they had studied Lucy's paperwork, all the contributory reports, the needs assessment, social care assessment, etc etc. Oh how they discussed and deliberated! How they also read all the information which points irrefutably to Pearson College as the place that will attend to what Lucy needs, and put her in a position to make something of her life.
And what did they decide? After all this consideration and bearing in mind how difficult it is for Lucy to transfer skills from one environment to the next, they conclude that it is pointless to send her to Pearson's! She would apparently come out after three years not any the better for her experience! She would be at exactly the same stage coming out as going in. Where do they dig these people up from I ask? These are supposed to be those we entrust the future of our most vulnerable people to. They have the power, with council funding, to turn the lives of those not expected to be successful, contributing members of our society, into worthwhile and enjoyable "different" lives. Because that is all they are. The people we used to label as "mentally disabled" are often, and particularly in the case of someone like Lucy, with high functioning autism, just different in how they perceive and understand the world. How they are able to relate to other people and interact with them. How they see their own lives in the grand scheme of things. They are different, find it harder to comprehend, need different ways to teach them and show them. Need differently skilled, patient, people to guide them through the world and how they are to deal with it and behave in it. Pearson college does just this for Lucy.
The local authority's solution? Well, since Lucy would not actually really learn anything at Pearson's, but given that they agree othewise with the needs assessment (huh??!), she would be put on the fantastic "local colleges first" scheme, whereby she would be honoured with 3 days of 5 hours each at a local establishment, in this case a farm about 20 miles away (how local is that?) which will provide her access to horses and non-academic BTEC-like qualification. Yeah, right. Lucy will drop out of that for sure, and we all know it. She would not come out with any qualification, and she would not get anywhere close to her dream job. What about the rest of the time? Well, she would be treated to the "Twofold" system, which places such people into some place of work, by hook or by crook, so that the council can tick that box. No matter if the person does not want to do that work, or if it is menial and without future. Main thing, they meet that little obligation. Also, she would have a marvellous opportunity to experience the "Re-enablement" scheme. Heaven knows what that is, but I would guess a few hours a week being forced to interact with disable people she doesn't want anything to do with, or be encouraged to "join in" with stuff she has no interest in.
She would be accommodated in supported living, with a "PA" to help her with stuff.
All this would be a very costly provision, especially the supported living and the chauffeuring to the farm. In fact, it is quite possibly more expensive than sending her to Pearson's. Whereby Pearsons covers about 10 times the needs that Lucy has. The council's suggestion fails on so many counts to satisfy the needs of Lucy as laid out in the LDA.
You would think that it would be a straight forward matter now for me to challenge the ruling. All the evidence points to the right solution. But that is not how things work in this world. There is no clear legal way to fight this. We certainly want to try, but fear it would be something that would take months, probably more time than we have left until September when Lucy's place at Pearson's would expire. We would have to traumatize Lucy with the whole process and not be in a position to give her any hope. Even engaging a lawyer, there seems to be no precendent for this. No process to follow. It would be placing all our hopes on Black and getting Red at the last moment.
All Lucy could think about when she found out was "My future just disappeared!". All her plans, which she maps out repeatedly, every weekend, for the next three to four years, have been intermeshed with being at Pearson's (yes, we told her not to raise her hopes, but she needs to see a world in the future, she cannot deal with the uncertainty. She made up her own future). All that world of cards just came crashing down. She was left with a dusty, empty, post armegedon world. She didn't know where to go. She could only sob in her room and wonder what the point of anything was. We could do nothing to help her.
But we could do something. If only we had £50k a year to fund Pearson's ourselves. So my plan is the following.
1. pursue the legal course anyway, but don't rely on it for Lucy's sake. Give her hope somehow.
2. find some way of borrowing the money we need to fund Pearson's. No idea what options we have. I only know we have no money in any savings to pay for this.
3. Get rich. Hmm. How do you do that?