Mum hits out over HSE ad­vice for son

Wexford People - - NEWS - By DAVID TUCKER

A WEX­FORD mother was told by the HSE to call the gar­dai to take her aus­tic teenaged son into cus­tody if he had a melt­down over a week­end when its staff were off duty.

Jane John­stone, from Bal­win­stown, said she was threat­ened that her chil­dren would be put into fos­ter care when she chal­lenged the HSE ad­vice and was told she could be re­ferred to Tusla.

‘It’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to put a child in a cell,’ Ms John­stone told this news­pa­per.

Ms John­stone, whose hus­band Rod passed away three years ago, is a mother of two autis­tic chil­dren, Evan, aged 17, and Daniel, aged 13, and a daugh­ter Ciara.

Her plight was re­vealed by Deputy Mick Wal­lace to whom she ap­pealed for help af­ter long-run­ning is­sues with the HSE when she asked for respite care for Evan, 17, who is se­verely autis­tic and has a vis­ual im­pair­ment.

Read­ing from a e-mail in the Dail dur­ing Leader’s Ques­tions last week, Deputy Wal­lace quoted Ms John­stone as say­ing her older son is ‘seen and treated as an in­con­ve­nience and a prob­lem to our health ser­vice be­cause he is dif­fer­ent and dif­fer­ence comes at a cost’.

‘I’ve been threat­ened with fos­ter care, ad­vised to call the gar­dai if Evan has a melt­down be­cause the HSE failed to give him the sup­port he needs and when I took is­sue with these threats, I’ve been told I could be re­ferred to Tusla,’ she wrote in the e-mail.

Ad­dress­ing Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar, Deputy Wal­lace asked: ‘When the HSE en­cour­ages a par­ent to call gar­dai to take an autis­tic teenager into cus­tody who might de­velop be­havioural prob­lems at a time when the HSE has shut down for the week­end, does that sound as if it might max­imise the po­ten­tial of that child?’

The Taoiseach re­sponded that he was not in a po­si­tion to com­ment on in­di­vid­ual cases, how­ever, he would ex­am­ine the in­for­ma­tion if it was passed on to him.

The Dáil heard that Evan was di­ag­nosed with se­vere autism aged three. ‘He has sig­nif­i­cant mo­bil­ity is­sues and due to a de­gen­er­a­tive eye con­di­tion he also has sig­nif­i­cant vis­ual im­pair­ment.’

Ms John­stone told this news­pa­per that she was sat­is­fied with the Taoiseach’s re­sponse ‘as long as he fol­lows through’.

‘This isn’t the first time that I have had to go into the pub­lic do­main.. at the end of the day all we want to be is to be part of the com­mu­nity and part of so­ci­ety. My boys have the same hopes and am­bi­tions as any other boys, but they need a lot of care and sup­port,’ she said.

Ms John­stone said the sug­ges­tion of call­ing the gar­dai was com­pletely un­ac­cept­able. ‘The gar­dai have no train­ing in look­ing af­ter a 17 year old with an in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity,’ she said, sug­gest­ing a solul­tion of hav­ing trained ser­vice providers avail­able at any time when their were ma­jor is­sues to look af­ter a child ‘un­til the heat goes out of the sit­u­a­tion’.

‘It’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to put a child in a cell,’ she said. Ms John­stone said an­other hur­dle lay ahead of her fam­ily. When Evan turns 18 next May, there is no nat­u­ral tran­si­tion from child to adult respite ser­vices and he would have to go back on to a wait­ing list. ‘It’s a chal­leng­ing life. The boys are on a very tight string and if you start pulling that string, the worry is what will hap­pen to us?’

Jane, Evan and Ciara John­stone.

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