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Mum's legal action over autistic son's Bristol college place

By Caroline Le Marechal
BBC News, Bristol

media captionZak's mum is helping him become more independent

The mother of a severely autistic man is taking legal action after a BBC film showing him learning to shop was used to assess him for a college placement.

Zak Mohamed was given a place at City of Bristol College, which his mother said would be unsafe for him and others as classes were too big and too noisy.

In a document seen by the BBC, the city council said the film showed he "can achieve good progress in independence".

His mother Nura Aabe said she was "sad they would use the film against me".

In May, the council sent Ms Aabe an email that said the college had "confirmed it could not fully meet Zak's needs".

Two months later he was allocated a place there - though he has not yet attended the college.

'This is disgusting'

Bristol City Council said: "We do not comment on the cases of individual clients."

Ms Aabe said the family took part in a BBC Inside Out documentary in February because she wanted to raise awareness of how people such as her son could learn to be more independent and wanted Zak to be accepted in communities where there was a stigma around autism.

image copyrightNura Aabe
image captionNura Aabe said the college would be unsafe for her son Zak

Zak, who turned 20 in October, had to leave special needs school The Shieling, in Thornbury, about 12 miles from Bristol, this summer because it only takes students aged up to 19 at the start of an academic year.

Ms Aabe said she was worried being "in a group size of eight students with two adults" at City of Bristol College would "automatically exclude him" because his needs were too complex.

She said: "The video was 20 minutes of Zac's life and it's edited. They have dismissed professional evidence of his needs - speech and language therapists, medical support workers and his family - and used the video as evidence.

"They have also used 'anecdotal evidence from students with similar needs' - that is not evidence, this is disgusting.

"How can they offer a placement for a severely autistic boy when they have not met him? What about his safety and the safety of others? It is not safe."

'Enough on their plate'

She had hoped Zak could go to Ruskin Mill school in Stroud - 32 miles (51km) from Bristol.

Mrs Aabe said: "I want to know why on 8 May, I was told by Bristol City Council that City of Bristol College cannot meet his needs and in July they said they could meet his needs. I'm not going to trust them."

The council told her in the email in May that Zak's case discussion forum "did not decline the request" [for Ruskin Mill] but that it had to "consult with local provision".

The local authority also failed to meet its statutory duty to issue an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) by 31 March.

The EHCP would set out the needs, provision and school or college a young person with special needs should attend.

Mrs Aabe said as the council had not met its requirements to issue Zak's EHCP by the deadline, she was forced to pay for a solicitor to "threaten" them with a judicial review. A special needs tribunal is now scheduled for 10 December.

"Why does a family have to go through this struggle? When they've already got enough on their plate raising a young man with a severe disability?," she asked.

A council spokeswoman said: "In supporting young people with SEND to prepare for adulthood we always seek to work closely with the young person and their family, as well as with education, health and social care professionals, to help them achieve the best possible outcomes.

"Where it is appropriate we will look to provide this support within the young person's local community."

Related Topics

  • Autism
  • Bristol City Council

More on this story

  • Special needs 'breaking county council budgets'

  • How does someone with autism go shopping?

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