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Mum’s fury at being branded a criminal

PUBLISHED: 11:23 27 August 2009 | UPDATED: 17:05 25 August 2010

LET DOWN: Lesley Fewins

LET DOWN: Lesley Fewins

A MOTHER who was labelled a criminal for pulling her son out of school who had threatened to take his own life claims she was bullied, made to feel worthless and left totally alone.

A MOTHER who was labelled a criminal for pulling her son out of school who had threatened to take his own life claims she was "bullied, made to feel worthless and left totally alone."

Single parent Lesley Fewins, 43, of Granby Road, Eltham, slammed education services for its handling of her youngest son, Christopher, 16.

He last attended Cleeve Park School, Sidcup, in May 2006 and was diagnosed with severe anxiety and social phobia seven months later.

A bright, sensitive teenager, the condition has kept him virtually housebound for the last three years. It has rocked the family to the core, including older brother Daniel, who aced exams despite the torment facing his brother and is studying electrical engineering at Westminster University.

Ms Fewins said: "I was a single parent and education services tried to make out that my children ruled the roost, letting them do exactly what they wanted - that simply wasn't the situation at all.

"They have never been in trouble and I couldn't ask for two better, more beautiful children. Christopher has been let down."

She was taken to court in June 2007 for Christopher's non-attendance on the advice of an education welfare officer (EWO) despite a consultant's report on his condition. She said the case was thrown out on the first day.

Ms Fewins said: "The EWO had not even met Christopher and they kept getting his name wrong, calling him Stephen.

"The first meeting I had with her I half joked 'I feel like I'm being treated like a criminal' and she replied - 'You are a criminal'.

"I'm a strong person but I feel bullied, made to feel worthless and left on my own with a child who had threatened to kill himself.

"I have lost all faith in the system that is supposed to look after children's needs."

She added: "An attendance officer at the school said I should drag Christopher to the school gate if necessary. They refused to send homework on the grounds it would condone his absence."

Ms Fewins blasted systematic failures, saying that not enough help is available from the local authority and that welfare officers do not listen to parents' concerns.

Procedures were "not adhered to" that would have prevented her being taken to court.

Her faith in the government's Every Child Matters scheme designed to link up families and education has been shattered, claiming it "does not support children in need."

She made an emotional plea for help: "There is less support when a child reaches 18, what is going to happen to my son? I'm worried sick. I've been told it's not too late if he gets help now."

A spokesman for Bexley council said: "The London Borough of Bexley does not accept liability in this case.

"The Ombudsman considered a complaint from Mrs Fewins and concluded: 'I have no grounds on which I could criticise the council, as I am satisfied that it acted in accordance with its procedures and based on the medical advice it received'.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage, as it is currently in the hands of Mrs Fewins' solicitors and the council's Legal Department.

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