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Mum of Ramsgate boy Sammy Alban-Stanley leading calls for government change to mental health services

A grieving mum whose disabled boy died following inadequate support from authorities is urging the government to take action to prevent more children dying.

Sammy Alban-Stanley, from Ramsgate, fell from a cliff during lockdown in 2020, having previously tried to harm himself during “dangerous and life-threatening" episodes caused by Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS).

Sammy Alban-Stanley with mum Patricia
Sammy Alban-Stanley with mum Patricia

The 13-year-old had previously tried to drown himself in the sea and run into moving motorway traffic, while others would try to restrain him.

But he was classed as being at low risk of self-harm or suicide, despite his mother Patricia Alban’s desperate pleas for extra support from Kent County Council (KCC) and mental health teams.

Now Ms Alban is calling on education secretary Nadhim Zahawi and health secretary Sajid Javid to ensure children like Sammy are given access to vital services.

In an open letter sent to the ministers, she says: “There are currently widespread inadequacies across all systems in knowledge, understanding the needs of neurodiverse children and how best to meet those needs.

“Mandatory training must be implemented on autism and other neurological conditions when offering or implementing services for disabled children.

Sammy Alban-Stanley tragically died two years ago
Sammy Alban-Stanley tragically died two years ago

“Urgent change is necessary to ensure that individual trusts and local authorities across the country respect the rights of disabled children to live full, fair and equal lives.”

Suffering from an episode, Sammy left his home – without his family’s knowledge – and climbed over the railings on Ramsgate clifftop, where he fell despite efforts from passers-by to save him.

He died four days later, having sustained serious head injuries.

Following an inquest last year, assistant coroner Catherine Wood revealed that she feared there is a risk further deaths could occur unless action is taken by authorities.

She noted that if Sammy was given greater levels of practical help and support, it “may have made a difference to his high-risk behaviour and ultimately his death”.

Sammy with his favourite drink lime and soda
Sammy with his favourite drink lime and soda

Ms Alban’s letter adds: “Further training and clearer guidance are essential for those undertaking assessments and plans for disabled children.

“Professionals must have the resources and training to carry out these assessments in a timely, holistic and properly informed way, including consideration of any disability and reasonable adjustments which may be required.”

Sammy was diagnosed with PWS, autism and associated anxiety. He would experience episodes of high-risk self-harming, connected to his PWS, when he became distressed.

There were more than 29 police contacts and at least 13 referrals made by officers to KCC. On two occasions he was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Ms Alban hopes Mr Zahawi will listen to her experience as he begins reviews into special needs support and social care services for children.

"Urgent change is necessary to ensure that individual trusts and local authorities across the country respect the rights of disabled children to live full, fair and equal lives..."

The letter has been co-signed by Natalia Nash, whose son, Oskar, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and high anxiety.

After almost two years in a special educational school the 14-year-old was placed in a mainstream secondary without further assessment.

He found it difficult to cope and was referred “urgently” to children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) by his GP in September 2019.

At the time of his death in January 2020, an assessment of his needs by Surrey County Council was incomplete and overdue.

The letter adds: “Both cases demonstrate a failure to assess or review the severity of a child’s developing needs despite repeated requests from their family and reports from other services.

“Both inquests identified evidence of a need for further assistance, there was evidence of repeated failures to intervene, and to offer treatment or support.

“Increased funding, training, and the availability of treatment from CAMHS and other mental health providers needs to be adopted nationally to ensure that children with autism and associated mental health needs have effective and timely assessment and treatment where required.”

Speaking after Ms Wood issued her findings last year, Matt Dunkley, corporate director of children, young people and education at KCC, said the authority accepted the coroner's findings and improvements have been made within the service.

"We are grateful for her acknowledgement of our reflective analysis outlining the valuable lessons learned and subsequent interventions and improvements put in place within our children’s services," he said.

"We take our responsibility for Kent’s children extremely seriously and will continue to strive to deliver the very best care and support possible for them and their families."

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