Wales

Boy's scurvy death prompts home-schooling register call

Glynn a Julie Seabridge Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Glynn and Julie Seabridge said they did not believe their son had scurvy

Wales should have a register of all children educated at home, says a report into an eight-year-old boy who died from scurvy.

Dylan Seabridge became ill at his family's isolated farmhouse in Pembrokeshire and died in 2011.

A child practice review found that the boy had no direct contact with agencies such as doctors, nurses and teachers from the age of 13 months.

His parents disputed the findings of an inquest conclusion of scurvy.

The independent review report has called for the Welsh Government to introduce a compulsory register of home-taught children.

Author Gladys Rhodes White said that the current legislation is in "stark contrast" to the Welsh Government's commitment to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

The report acknowledged that parents have the right to educate their child at home rather than at school, and that home education was not in itself a risk factor for abuse or neglect.

But it stated that there was potential for children to become 'invisible'.

Wellbeing 'compromised'

The review claimed that in the case of Dylan, the family was isolated from mainstream universal services and that it "could be argued he was not having the opportunity to have his basic human rights met".

"He was not routinely having access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities along with friendships and age appropriate socialisation. When he encountered health problems he was not given the right to appropriate health care," the report said.

The review said it appeared that the child's emotional and physical wellbeing had been compromised.

"His parents had parental responsibility and a duty to provide appropriate care, including the need to seek medical attention for his health needs. This did not happen," it added.

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Media captionReport author Gladys Rhodes White said Wales should have a register of all children educated at home

Parents Julie and Glynn Seabridge, from Dolau in Eglwyswrw, were charged with neglect but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case in 2014, and not guilty verdicts were entered.

The parents also disputed an inquest ruling that their son died from scurvy, a rare condition caused by lack of vitamin C. They said they did not believe he had scurvy and thought he was suffering from growing pains.

The report said they chose not to engage with the child practice review, and it was "their strongly held view that the review should not go ahead".

It emerged earlier this year that concerns were raised about Dylan more than a year before he died.

Education officials visited the Seabridges but they were not allowed access to the home, and they had no power to see Dylan.

'Lack of information'

"It is particularly poignant that in conducting this review we have no sense whatsoever of this child. Who was he, what did he like, what were his thoughts and aspirations?" added Gladys Rhodes White.

"There is a total lack of information on him other than very limited glimpses gleaned from the information presented by the family.

"It is tragic that there are many references that the child was 'invisible'."

Responding to the report, Welsh Government officials said the findings would be carefully considered.

"This is a very sad case and it is vital everyone working with children and adults learn lessons from the review," a spokesman said.

"This will include us looking at our guidance across the public services and the third sector to see if there are areas we can change and improve."

Push families 'into hiding'

But the chief executive of a home education body in Cardiff has argued that there is no need of a change in legislation.

"I don't see any benefits from it. I can't see what it will achieve in the long run," said Jayne Palmer, chief executive of New Foundations Home Education.

"I think more families will go into hiding, rather than risk being identified by local education authorities and being victimised by those who don't know what they are doing."

She said current laws are "more than adequate" to allow social services or education officials to get access to a child if concerns are raised.