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26th Oct, 2021

Solihull Councillor resigns from committee after autism comments

Sarah Mason 27th Sep, 2021

A SOLIHULL Councillor has stepped down from a committee after suggesting parenting skills were partly to blame for autism cases.

Angela Sandison told the Children’s, Education and Skills scrutiny committee meeting some mothers should be encouraged not to spend much time on their phones.

The Conservative councillor made the comments while highlighting high rates of autism in the area, which are almost double the regional and national average by the time children reached secondary school.

She has since apologised and said: “In no way is autism due to bad parenting.

“Autism is real and I in no way meant to blame parents.

“I unreservedly apologise. I am very sorry for the upset caused and I would like to offer my resignation from the Scrutiny Board.”

In the meeting she questioned whether cases were being “over-diagnosed” and whether so many children actually needed a place in a special school.

One small study, referenced by Coun Sandison, has suggested parental support could reduce by two-thirds the number of three-year-olds meeting the criteria for diagnosis.

During the meeting, other councillors hit out at Coun Sandison’s, with one saying “autism is not a failure of parenting”, while the chair said the condition was “very real”.

Council officers said early parental support may make a difference, but they did not fully understand why instances were so high in the borough.

One suggested it may have been partly due to Solihull performing well in dealing with referrals.

Solihull council said it had received at least 15 complaints in relation to the Council’s Code of Conduct following the comments.

Since the meeting Coun Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council, released the following statement: “I have spoken with Coun Sandison who is deeply upset at the distress felt by so many of our parents and carers. She has explained to me that it was certainly not her intention to cause distress.

“However, as a consequence, Coun Sandison has tendered her resignation from the Children’s, Education and Skills scrutiny committee, which I have accepted.

“I have also discussed the situation with the Council’s monitoring officer who will follow the Council’s process with regard to the Members Code of Conduct.

“All of us who have the privilege to live, work and learn in Solihull are committed to doing our very best for all our children and young people.

“To this end I will be working with our key stakeholders, including parents and carers, to provide further learning for all elected members on all aspects of working and living with children and young people with special needs.”

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