Wrexham social services backs down

Wrexham Council’s social services department has finally given
the go-ahead for a teenager in its care to attend a private
boarding school to study drama, writes Alex

The u-turn by the local authority came after mounting criticism
of its refusal to let aspiring actress, Suzanne Turley, who is 16,
and currently in foster care, take up the offer of a place at
Gordonstoun in Scotland, which Prince Charles attended.

Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Peter Clarke, had been
prepared to intervene on Suzanne’s behalf and in a separate
move, lawyers in Cardiff were preparing to take up the case, and if
necessary ask for a judicial review of the authority’s

Suzanne was first told by the local authority that the reason
she could not go to the school of her choice was that there was
adequate educational provision at a local sixth form college plus
additional concerns that the network of care open to her in Wrexham
might not be available in Scotland.

The teenager, who had the support of her foster parents and
relatives, said she had been shattered by the decision after
passing the entrance examination and being offered a place at what
is regarded as one of the elite centres for drama and the
performing arts.

The £18,000-a-year fees were to be paid partly by a trust
fund provided by Gordonstoun and partly by Suzanne’s
grandparents who said they were prepared to give up their savings,
although Angela Harkness, development director at Gordonstoun, told
Community Care that an anonymous donor had since come
forward with an offer to pay the fees.

Harkness said: “We were very disappointed that Wrexham social
services did not talk to us through all this. We have a member of
staff who is a trained foster carer and she is willing to foster
Suzanne. We also have a staff member who regularly travels to Wales
and who is willing to take Suzanne back to Wrexham in the holidays
so that she can see friends and family.”

Malcolm Russell, director of personal services in Wrexham, said
in a statement that social services had listened carefully to
Suzanne’s views and those of her relatives.

He added: “We have agreed to respond to the views expressed by
agreeing to her placement at Gordonstoun, provided that a number of
appropriate safeguards can be put in place. We will be discussing
these with Suzanne, the school and her relatives over the next few
days. As Suzanne is still a young person who is looked after by
Wrexham County Borough Council we ask that she is now given space
to continue with her life.”

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