Cheam Mum with ME Andrea Welsh hit with for £350 fine for daughter's school record
A disabled single mother has been fined £350 for her daughter's poor attendance at school despite her continuing pleas for help.
Andrea Welsh, 42, was diagnosed as having debilitating disorder Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) three years ago and had to leave her job working at Victim Support.
As the illness means she has severely disturbed sleep patterns, sometimes she is unable to get up on a morning to take her eight-year-old daughter, who suffers from Attention Deficit Activity Disorder (ADHD), to school.
But earlier this month Miss Welsh was fined £350 at Croydon Magistrates Court after daughter Ayesha's attendance fell to 80 per cent, now the mother believes she is being criminalised for being disabled.
Miss Welsh, who is appealing the court's decision, said: "I could be in jail now, and it's all because I'm disabled. My daughter struggles to sleep because of her illness, so the whole situation is just a nightmare. I have tried to get help from the school, from my MP, but nobody wants to help. I've done everything I can, I want her to go to school, but they want to make a criminal out of me."
The mother-of-one said she is being failed by the system, and campaigners agree.
Jane Coleby, the executive director of the Tymes Trust, a national trust set up to help ME sufferers, also happens to be an ex-headteacher, and in her opinion, the school and the local authority need to do more.
She said: "I understand the difficulty the school faces as attendance records are there for a reason, but this seems a little unjust. It's a sad example of when the system has been very unhelpful. This ought not to be beyond the wit of mankind to sort out. This woman is ill and needs help."
Councillor Dave Callaghan, chairman of the children, family and education committee said: "We’re proud of the education system we have here in Sutton and we want every young person to benefit from high quality schooling.
To achieve this we work closely with all schools in the borough to ensure any poor attendance issues are addressed appropriately.
Where there are concerns, we take every possible step to engage with families to improve a child’s attendance.
Formal legal action is only used as a last resort. After any legal action, we continue to support a family to engage with the school, in order to improve school attendance."