Social workers took 40-year-old autistic son from parents over a false claim of abuse

Daily Mail
25.10.2010
By Daily Mail Reporter

Blundering social workers take 40-year-old autistic son away from devastated elderly couple fearing they were abusing him

A couple’s autistic son was taken away from them by blundering social workers who thought he had received a black eye due to physical abuse.

Henry Newbury’s black eye was caused by an ethnic condition known as ‘panda’ eye, resulting from a lack of sleep.

But Henry, 40, was taken away from his family home for eight months while police and social services investigated his elderly parents.

The Public Services Ombudsman today ordered council chiefs to apologise to Henry’s mother and father.

Henry, who has the mental age of five, needs round-the-clock care from his accountant father, also named Henry, and mother Sheila.

The pair, who are of Indian origin, are highly regarded in their community for the care they have shown Henry over the last 40 years.

But in March last year two allegations of abuse were made by workers at the day centre which their son attends.

The Newburys were told Henry appeared to have a black eye and that he was being taken into the care of social services.

The couple, from Caerphilly, South Wales, tried to explain that his black eye was caused by the ethnic trait known as ‘panda’ eye, which is caused through a lack of sleep.

But the devoted parents were investigated and Mrs Newbury, a community councillor in Caerphilly, was suspended from her care worker job for six months.

Mrs Newbury said: ‘This ordeal was like losing someone. It was like a bereavement. I grieved for my son every day.

‘I became ill because I was so sad. This was a false claim. I am a community councillor and I was worried about the shame.

‘It was awful. It was like a black cloud hanging over me.’

Gwent Police investigated the allegation of physical abuse and found no case to answer.

After Henry returned home Mr Newbury made an official complaint against the council for the way the investigation was handled and the length of time it took.

The Public Services Ombudsman partially upheld his complaint describing the investigation as ‘flawed’.

The ombudsman’s report criticised social workers for not having Henry properly medically assessed before he was taken into care and not communicating properly with the family.

It also partially upheld a complaint that Henry was taken into care without a court order, but said it was reasonable to have placed him in short-term care while the police investigation was launched.

The ombudsman found communication by social workers with the family ‘mixed’, while Henry’s welfare appeared to have been ‘lost’ in the investigation process.

Mr Newbury, a former army officer and Gurkha who was twice decorated during his military career, said: ‘I do not want another family to go through this.

‘The worst thing of all was seeing Henry in care during visits.

‘How could we explain to our son what was going on? We could not tell him what was happening.’

Full article

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