Wales

Pembrokeshire pupil abuse row: 'time out' boy and family speak of ordeal

  • 14 June 2012
  • From the section Wales

One of the pupils at the centre of the Pembrokeshire child protection row has spoken about the time he was locked in a padded room.

Aeddan Parry, 16, says he was locked in a 'time out' room at Neyland's pupil referral unit in 2009.

His father Andrew described the incidents as "disgusting".

Welsh government ministers have issued Pembrokeshire council with what they describe as a final warning on safeguarding children.

They claimed that the local authority had not done enough to improve matters since ministers appointed a panel of experts to oversee the council's procedures last September in the wake of warnings from school and social services inspectors.

The matter has also been raised with Dyfed-Powys Police, including new information passed to officers on Wednesday by council officials.

'Physically forced'

Aeddan Parry was sent to the Neyland referral unit after being diagnosed with the condition Semantic-Pragmatic disorder, which is linked to mild autistic spectrum issues.

It meant he had a tendency to lash out violently.

He told BBC Wales how he would be forced into a padded 'time out' room at the unit when he went into a rage.

"I used to get really angry and lash out at people, sometimes for no reason," he explained.

"People would grab me and push me into the 'time out' room."

Aeddan said he could be locked in there for anywhere between a few minutes to hours, depending on how long it took him to become calm again.

"I was there once for a whole day - they put food in for me," he said.

The pupil was aged 12 when the incidents happened, and after a year at the referral unit he returned to mainstream education.

He is sitting his GCSE exams this year and is now preparing for sixth-form college in September.

"Normal - perfect" is how he described his current school life, and he now had few feelings about the referral unit or how he was treated.

"I don't feel much about it - it's all in the past, it's happened - you can't change it," he said.

Aeddan's father Andrew Parry said the family only found out about the forced spells in the padded room in December last year, when they were contacted by the team ordered in by the Welsh government to review child safeguarding procedures.

"We had a police officer and a social worker who were doing the report for this 'time out' room," said Mr Parry.

"They showed us a DVD of our son being locked in the 'time out' room.

"I actually felt like lashing out at somebody at the time as well because of the way he was treated."

Mr Parry said they had been aware that the pupil referral unit had a 'time out' room, but had understood that it was used on a voluntary basis.

"We were told he could go there of his own accord but not physically forced in there and locked in there," he said.

"It should not be happening in this century. Prisoners are not treated like that. It is disgusting the way our children are being taught and treated."

Leader's pledge

Speaking on Thursday, the new leader of Pembrokeshire county council, Jamie Adams, pledged to "get to the bottom" of child protection failings in the county.

Mr Adams said there was no evidence of children being held in locked rooms since 2009, adding that those allegations were being investigated.

In relation to the allegation that Aeddan Parry had spent long spells of time in the 'time out' room - which no longer exists - a council spokesperson added: "We the county council have never heard any suggestion or complaint that anyone has been locked in a room for the whole school day."

The Welsh government stepped in last year when inquiries by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales and schools inspectors Estyn warned about failures.

It appointed a panel of experts to oversee the council's procedures.

Ministers are now considering giving the chair of the board - retired judge Graham Jones - the power to issue instructions so the authority meets its duties.

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