Mother accused of making up son’s disability receives apology from Essex County Council

A MOTHER who almost had her son taken away from her after she was accused of lying about his disability has spoken of her fear that it could happen again.

Sharon Foley, of Whiteshot Way, Saffron Walden, said she had been treated “appallingly” and is desperate to raise awareness of her son’s condition so that other parents do not have to endure the same nightmare.

The 41-year-old mother-of-three has received �1,000 compensation and a 31-page apology from Essex County Council over the debacle – which saw her hauled before a child protection conference back in September 2010.

She was accused of making up her son’s disability to cover for his poor attendance at school. Alex, 13, suffers from microcephaly – a neurological condition where the skull stops growing and leaves the brain unable to develop properly.

“A paediatrician we had seen in 2007 said I had fabricated Alex’s disability, despite having no evidence to support the accusation,” Ms Foley said. “Alex had brain scans – how could I fabricate that?”

Ms Foley told the Reporter of her heartache when social services threatened to take Alex, a pupil at the County High School, into care, accusing her of “emotionally abusing him by fabricating his illness”.

“They said Alex would be better cared for in a foster home,” Ms Foley explained.

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Although the allegation was eventually thrown out, Ms Foley said it had taken five years of fighting for the authorities to recognise Alex’s disability – and that there was still not a clear understanding of its impact on his life.

“There are a complex range of issues related to Alex’s microcephaly. He suffers very badly from sleep walking, delayed phase sleep syndrome and restless leg syndrome so it is often difficult to wake him up in the morning because he is exhausted.

“The school has been told about it but I still get phone calls from the attendance officer three or four times a month asking where he is. At best, he attends school twice a week.

“I have asked for a specially tailored educational plan to be put together to cater for Alex’s needs but the school have refused, saying they want to keep him together with the other children.”

A spokesman at the County High school said Alex’s attendance is less than 15 per cent.

“Unfortunately at this level it has proved very difficult to progress his education,” she said.

“However, when Alex is in school he is a pleasure to teach, has many friends and clearly enjoys school.

“All staff are aware of his individual needs detailed in his personal learning plan, which is regularly reviewed.”

Ms Foley described the situation as a “vicious circle”, saying that problems with Alex’s school life stemmed from his lack of proper medical care – although she has vowed to “fight tooth and nail” until the authorities take note.

“We cannot get a paediatrician to see him,” she said. “Our GP has to apply for funding for him to be seen at Addenbrooke’s Hospital because I don’t want to have to go back to Harlow and be seen by the same people who accused me, but we don’t know how long this will take to come through.

“It is just a vicious circle and I’m afraid that if something isn’t done soon we will end up back where we started.”

Ms Foley is publishing a book in an effort to raise awareness of Alex’s disability.

She is working on the project with her stepdaughter, who is an author, and is hoping to use the proceeds to start a charity to help other families affected by microcephaly.

A spokesman for the county council said: “The council always strives to provide the very best service for the children and families we work with, but there are occasions when we get things wrong.”