Andrew was born on 22nd October 1994, at 26 weeks gestation, weighing just 1lb and 14oz at Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital. He was delivered so early by emergency c-section because his mum had severe pre-eclampsia and was close to death. Andrew's lungs hadn't had time to form and he was unable to breathe for himself, so he was ventilated for the first three weeks of his life. When he was two days old, he had a cerebral bleed, and this caused damage in his brain. Andrew fought hard, and continued to grow, breathed on his own, learned how to suck from a bottle, and finally came home from hospital on his due date, 22nd January 1995.
Andrew's nickname is Superstar, and I hope you'll all soon understand why. Andrew has fought so hard with his health during his first few years, and is now a fit and healthy young man! He has worked hard at school, and has a number of Scottish Vocational Qualifications. Andrew now wants to go to college; he's very creative and artistic and is interested in music, art and technology.
Andrew has attended a fantastic specialist school, Stanmore House School in Lanark, since nursery. Stanmore have supported Andrew to attend Motherwell College once day a week for the past year. Motherwell College is one of our local colleges. Andrew had looked through the college prospectus and chosen a course. However, at a meeting just before the summer holidays, we were told that Motherwell College did not allow young people with additional complex support needs to choose their own courses. Instead, Andrew was offered a place on their Access 8 course, which is an eight week course offering "taster sessions" of a variety of recreational courses. At the end of the eight weeks he may or may not have been offered two afternoons of similar recreational type activities. Andrew is a bright young man, and wants to continue to achieve and develop educationally. He can take part in recreational activities with his friends and family. Andrew wants to go to college to have a meaningful educational experience!
Following on from this very upsetting meeting, we looked at other colleges around Scotland, and it became very clear that there was nothing available that could offer Andrew what he wanted and what he needs within Scotland. We then decided to do a bit of research, and discovered that this has been the case for a number of years. Young people in Scotland used to regularly cross the border to England to access the specialist colleges that exist there, and also in Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish Government reviewed this situation and looked at whether we should have our own specialist college in Scotland. Despite a lot of evidence to suggest this should be the case, the decision was made at that time that additional funding would be provided to local authorities instead. The Scottish Government believe in mainstreaming, which unfortunately means Andrew's very specialist needs are left unmet!
Our local authority, South Lanarkshire Council, have made the decision that this extra money provided by the Government (which has been paid for young people with additional support needs, ie ANDREW!) should go straight to the mainstream colleges. They have not set up a discretionary fund, which means they will never have the opportunity to assess Andrew's individual needs - my wife has spoken to a lawyer about this and we could challenge it...
A Scottish Government webpage advised, "If your needs cannot be met within your local area, then you may apply to one of the specialist colleges". The Scottish Government have also advised us directly that the local authority is responsible for the funding. However, the local authority have advised that they cannot afford to fund a specialist college place....
Andrew sent away for several specialist college prospectuses, and decided to visit two. His mum and dad were blown away by what is on offer. There is just no comparison to the recreational course on offer at Motherwell. Andrew has applied to Beaumont College, which is a bit like Fame Academy! Andrew will have the opportunity to make films, music, dance productions, and basically create, create, create!
We have two aims with this campaign. Ensure Andrew's three year course is funded, and also to raise awareness about the complete lack of opportunities for young people with additional support needs. At 17, Andrew wants to be challenged, excited and entertained - it's a bit early for daycare!
I'll be updating this blog with news of our fundraising efforts. I'm looking into doing some charity runs. We're also looking for volunteer fundraisers; if you can help in any little way, it will be massively appreciated. Just comment or email me and we'll discuss it. Stay tuned!