‘SCURVY DEATH BOY LESSONS’

Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA CLE­MENTS Re­porter laura.cle­ments@waleson­line.co.uk

LESSONS still need to be learned af­ter the death of an “in­vis­i­ble” eight-year-old boy who died with scurvy nearly a decade ago, the Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sioner has said.

Nine years af­ter Dy­lan Mungo Seabridge died sud­denly at home in Pem­brokeshire, Sally Hol­land told the Western Mail that his tragic case is still im­por­tant for re­mind­ing us that some chil­dren can “slip un­der the radar”.

Dy­lan’s par­ents, Julie and Glynn Seabridge, were charged with child ne­glect af­ter it emerged their son had been home ed­u­cated and had never seen a doc­tor or den­tist in his short life.

He died of scurvy, an “eas­ily pre­ventable dis­ease”, at the fam­ily’s home near Crymych, Pem­brokeshire, but de­spite show­ing symp­toms the cou­ple told po­lice they thought Dy­lan had “grow­ing pains”.

Dy­lan had not been seen by the au­thor­i­ties for seven years, lead­ing to calls that all home-ed­u­cated chil­dren should be sub­se­quently made known to of­fi­cials – and the Welsh Gov­ern­ment pledged to change the law.

But in June this year, the Welsh Gov­ern­ment said “un­prece­dented pres­sures” on its day-to-day work meant this would not be pos­si­ble be­fore the 2021 elec­tion.

Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sioner Sally Hol­land said she un­der­stood the pan­demic was af­fect­ing the work­ings of gov­ern­ment, but there was “a duty to safe­guard the rights and wel­fare of chil­dren and young peo­ple”. She is now holding a re­view into the re­sponse fol­low­ing Dy­lan’s death.

Ms Hol­land said: “The Seabridge case was a uniquely tragic case at the time and the com­munity was shocked and sur­prised about how this lit­tle boy had not been known out­side the fam­ily. He was known to be there by some au­thor­i­ties but hadn’t been seen or vis­ited. It’s an im­por­tant case still today for re­mind­ing us that some chil­dren do slip un­der the radar of public ser­vices and so­ci­ety.”

The Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice de­cided not to pur­sue a case of ne­glect against Dy­lan’s par­ents, Julie, 46, and Glynn, 47, af­ter both weren’t con­sid­ered fit enough to stand trial.

A child prac­tice re­view pub­lished in 2016 said it was “tragic that there are many ref­er­ences that the child was ‘in­vis­i­ble’.”

It led to the Welsh Gov­ern­ment de­vel­op­ing leg­is­la­tion which would re­quire coun­cils to cre­ate a data­base to iden­tify chil­dren not on a school reg­is­ter. But this has been put on hold be­cause of the coronaviru­s pan­demic, leav­ing Ms Hol­land worried that progress could stall.

“For years, we’ve made re­peated calls to im­prove the le­gal frame­work to pro­tect th­ese chil­dren’s rights and have been par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the death of Dy­lan Seabridge in 2011,” she said. “At the mo­ment, home ed­u­ca­tion through­out the UK is very un­reg­u­lated, com­pared to the rest of Europe... If I don’t look at this de­ci­sion, I’m afraid no­body will and it will get dropped.”

She would like to see home ed­u­ca­tion coun­cil data­bases rolled out across Wales.

Al­though she ad­mit­ted it was rare to pur­sue a change of law based on just one case, she said the Seabridge case had given rise to “an im­por­tant re­port” and the gov­ern­ment had “pledged to re­spond to that”.

“It’s more for any other Seabridges out there,” she said. “Us­ing the learn­ing from that case, I con­tinue to have con­cerns.

“Of course, it doesn’t mean ev­ery home-ed­u­cated child is at risk. There are a large num­ber thriv­ing in those cir­cum­stances. But it is ex­tra­or­di­nary in Wales and the UK that you don’t have to in­form any­one of your de­ci­sion to ed­u­cate your child at home.”

A for­mal re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions will re­sult from this work in the new year.

A Welsh Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son said: “There are un­prece­dented pres­sures on day-to-day work within the gov­ern­ment as a re­sult of the public health emer­gency. This means that dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions have to be taken to en­sure front­line ser­vices are sup­ported in re­sponse to the na­tional cri­sis.

“We re­main com­mit­ted to chil­dren’s rights in Wales and to en­sur­ing chil­dren in Wales re­ceive a suit­able ed­u­ca­tion.

“Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties re­main un­der a duty to en­sure that all chil­dren in their lo­cal­ity are re­ceiv­ing a suit­able ed­u­ca­tion re­gard­less of where that is de­liv­ered.”

Glynn and Julie Seabridge were charged with child ne­glect af­ter the death of their eight-year-old son Dy­lan but the CPS dropped the case

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