Campaigners’ shock over metal ‘cage’ for pupil with autism


A Scottish local authority that built a metal “cage” for a teenager with autism to use during break times has been heavily criticised by a disabled people’s organisation.

Western Isles council blamed the decision to build the pen – made of metal fencing, with a wooden door and bolt – on a “breakdown in communication” with a contractor working at the Nicolson Institute, a mainstream school in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis.

The parents of the 19-year-old had raised £500 towards funding a new outdoor area for their son, and reportedly expected a safe space with wooden decking and leisure equipment.

The council said it had dismantled the pen, which was never used by the teenager, and was now discussing with his parents how to replace it.

But Bill Scott, acting manager of Inclusion Scotland – a national consortium of disabled people’s organisations and disabled people – said: “I just thought it was appalling. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“It was obviously very, very distressing to the parents of the child and also anybody who is working towards the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream education.

“I just do not see how anybody could mistake what was being put up for what would be suitable for a child to play in.”

A Western Isles spokesman said the council had apologised to the pupil’s family “for any distress which has been caused by the problems which have arisen from [the]proposed outdoor recreational area at the Nicolson Institute”.

He said a breakdown in communication between an education and children’s services officer and “those undertaking the construction work” led to “the latter not being aware of the purpose of the area and by whom it was going to be used”.

The council spokesman said the cage was “deemed completely inappropriate” after it was finished and was “dismantled” before being used.

He added: “The education and children’s services department will be in touch with [the]parents regarding a new and appropriate outdoor recreational area for this pupil.”

3 November 2010