Council ‘offered father of autistic boys £100k to move out of county’
- Tom Browne claims Kent County Council offered him £100,000 in cash
- He said it came after he made a complaint about the support offered to his sons
- The council said it made the offer as it understood the family wanted to move
A father of two autistic children claims a local authority offered him £100,000 in cash to move his family out of the county for five years.
Tom Browne said the proposal was made by Kent County Council after he made a formal complaint about the support being offered to his sons.
The lawyer and his wife Bex had applied for a needs assessment for the boys, Harry and George, before they moved to Kent.
The children, who have autism and suffer from anxiety, were given Education Health and Care Plans [EHCPs] outlining the support they were entitled to receive.
Tom Browne said the proposal was made by Kent County Council (pictured, file photo) after he made a formal complaint about the support being offered to his sons
But Mr Browne – who also has a daughter, Millie – alleges the boys were not provided with the care in the plans, so he complained. During a mediation session, he claims he was offered a £100,000 cash payment by the council to move out of the county.
He told BBC’s Panorama: ‘There were no limitations on how we spent it, the only condition was that we provided proof of residence that we had moved out of Kent and also that we agreed not to return to Kent for five years as residents.’
Asked by a BBC journalist how that would help, Mr Browne said that maybe another local authority might be able to help them.
Mr Browne, of Sittingbourne, added: ‘I’m still staggered by it. Why would they use that money to get us out of the county rather than to use [it] to help my kids? It feels like a huge waste of public money.’
The offer was formalised in a written document – seen by the BBC – which Mr Browne eventually decided not to accept.
Kent County Council said it made the offer as it understood the family wanted to move. The Brownes refute this.
Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee said that he isn’t shocked by it
A council spokesman said: ‘The mediation failed, no amount was agreed and no monies were exchanged.’ He added the council had ‘struggled to find common ground’ with Mr Browne but ‘believe they can meet the needs of both boys in Kent schools.’
Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee, said: ‘The sad thing is to say I’m not shocked by it… because we know councils have been basically bending the rules. It’s got to be stopped.’
The rate of refusals by councils to carry out EHCPs has been rising steadily every year.Across England last year, more than 18,500 children were refused, with almost 80,000 blocked since the system was introduced in 2014.
Mr Halfon, who led an 18-month inquiry into the state of special educational needs provision, added: ‘At the moment, I think the system mitigates against the child being the priority because what we’ve created is an adversarial system.’
BBC Panorama: Fighting for an Education is on BBC1 tonight at 7.35pm.
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