‘Bungling bureaucracy’ blocks disabled teen from care support days before Christmas

Sabba Butt with her niece Sana. Picture: Ken Mears

Sabba Butt with her niece Sana. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Days before Christmas, red tape blocked a severely disabled teenager from the vital care keeping her safe at home.

Bureaucracy between social services in Newham and Redbridge left Sabba Butt without help looking after her niece Sana, a 15-year-old with severe autism.

Stuck without qualified care support at home, Sabba, a former teacher, feared she would not be able to keep Sana safe in a home unsuitable to her needs.

“Sana does not speak, has meltdown tantrums and acts on her moods,” she told the Recorder.

“She can’t think things out. She ran from her classroom into the middle of a busy road earlier this year: it took five teachers to catch her.”

Sabba, Sana’s maternal aunt, became her guardian 15 months ago, caring for her around the clock.

When the teenager relocated to Romford Road, Manor Park, in August last year, Redbridge social services agreed to continue funding 19 hours a week of home support. Their counterparts in Newham, Sabba understood, would pick up the baton later on.

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The 36-year-old described the care making “slow progress”, with a medical assessment carried out earlier this year noting “Sana appears to be very attached to her aunt”.

But, more than a year later, the handover had not happened.

Instead, on Thursday, the home care funding ran dry.

“It was so abrupt — no warning, nothing,” said Sabba, describing herself as “worried sick” about Sana’s safety.

Accountant and long-standing family friend Roy Hiscock, 74, shared her concern.

“Sana is highly dependent: there is no way that her aunt can meet her care needs without some extra help,” he said, calling the situation “bungling bureaucracy at its worst”.

A spokeswoman for Newham Council said the local authority was “deeply sorry for any distress caused”, but “disappointed in Redbridge’s actions”.

Newham’s social services department was only told about the handover two days before Sana’s care was axed, she claimed.

Redbridge at first ignored this newspaper when asked when they told their Newham counterparts about Sana’s case.

After this article was published, a council spokeswoman insisted they raised the issue on November 16 – a month before the handover.

Following this paper’s questions, Redbridge reinstated Sana’s care package until the New Year, with Newham now responsible for her care support.

This will allow Newham “sufficient time” to set up a care plan, the Redbridge spokeswoman added.