Bristol mum’s call for SEND enquiry prompts response from police commissioner

A Bristol councillor who claims children with special educational needs have been abused by mainstream schools has received an official response she calls “disappointing”.

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset has personally responded to Kerry Bailes after she called for a criminal enquiry into her allegations last month.

Mark Shelford said he understood her wish for a national inquiry, saying mistreatment of children with special needs was a matter “close to my own heart”.

READ MORE: Heartfelt plea for ‘justice’ for Bristol children with special needs

But, he said, he could not review or progress an investigation into any incident not reported to the police.

Cllr Bailes contacted Mr Shelford after making public allegations that her son was “thrown into a car park at five years old” and was “locked in an office for being autistic”.

The Hartcliffe and Withywood councillor described the treatment of autistic children by mainstream schools as “abuse” and called for the same justice meted out to perpetrators of abuse in care homes.

She asked, as a councillor and a parent, for a criminal inquiry to investigate her claims, other cases across the city and even nationwide if necessary.

In an email sent to Cllr Bailes on Friday (July 30) and seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Shelford said he was sorry to hear of her son’s treatment.

He wrote: “I offer my sympathies for what must have been a difficult time for your family.

“I am concerned by your report of wider mistreatment of SEN [special educational needs] children in education across the Bristol area and beyond and this is a matter close to my own heart.”

The email continued: “I understand your wish for an enquiry to take place to look into the treatment of SEN children and I understand and empathise with your concerns.

“If safeguarding issues are raised with police I am assured that the Constabulary will work with partner agencies to address and resolve.

“With regards to the specific treatment of your son, I cannot see reference to a report made to police at the time in the transcript of your call to the office.

“If police were not contacted at the time to report the incident, I regret that my options to progress and review previous action taken with the Constabulary are limited.

“Please do pass on any relevant reference numbers to me if available and I will ask that they are looked into and reviewed.”

Mr Shelford advised Cllr Bailes that the Department for Education and education watchdog Ofsted were an “appropriate avenue” for her to pursue a national enquiry.

He told her he had passed on her concerns to the senior police officer associated with the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership.

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The partnership between Avon and Somerset Police, Bristol City Council and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire has a statutory duty to keep children in the area safe and make sure they are happy and healthy.

He said he was “reassured” to see the council is planning system-wide change to address concerns around services for children with special educational needs.

Cllr Bailes said the commissioner’s response was “disappointing but not surprising”.

“This is exactly how school staff get away with abuse,” she said. “Parents have been blowing the whistle on this for years. There are no consequences or accountability so this will go on happening.”

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