'They're dangling her on a string' - Edgware parents fight to send disabled daughter to Jewish college

This Is Local London: Kenneth and Debbie Leigh, holding a photo of Sabrina with her sister, Melissa Kenneth and Debbie Leigh, holding a photo of Sabrina with her sister, Melissa

The parents of a disabled teenager have accused councillors of “playing God” with her life after they refused to pay for her place at a tailor-made residential unit.

Sabrina Leigh, of Glengall Road, Edgware, has a rare form of cerebral palsy and needs 24 hour care, so was offered a place at Langdon Jewish College, in Manchester.

But Barnet Borough Council has rejected an application to pay for the £68,000 school fees, claiming there are enough services to support the 18-year-old locally.

Sabrina, who has the mental ability of a seven-year-old, is currently a pupil at Oak Tree, in Southgate, where the authority says she should complete a third year.

Her father, Kenneth Leigh, said: “They’ve just dangled us on a string. It’s been a war and a battle when we’re supposed to be moving our daughter towards a better life.

“We know it is far but it’s absolutely vital she stays in Jewish care and Langdon really is tailor made for her. Her needs are getting more and more extreme and we can’t cope.

“They’re playing God with her life. It’s like taking candy from a baby. She’s worried about what might happen to her next year, we all are.”

Although it would cost a maximum of £68,000 a year to send her to Langdon, this could go down to £38,000 after she has spent a few months at the college.

After completing a third term at Oak Trees, she would then have to move into a residential unit with Jewish charity Norwood – which would cost Barnet a minimum of £102,000 a year.

Her mother, Debbie Leigh, who is separated from Sabrina’s father, is her daughter’s full time carer – but was left exhausted after her own breast cancer diagnosis.

As a result, Sabrina was moved into Valley Way Residential Centre, in Barnet – which her parents claim is “not the right place” for her.

Mrs Leigh said: “Deaf people are given hearing aids, blind people walking sticks, but what about people like Sabrina?

“Langdon is the ideal place for her, it would be perfect. There we’ll know she’s safe. There’s no logic, it would be cheaper to send her to Langdon.

“Instead, the council is making her spend a third year at Oak Trees, learning the same old sums in a babyish way.”

Her family have until next Thursday (June 26) to accept the place at Langdon. Sabrina, whose condition is known as Worcester-Bar Syndrome, has behaviour problems which can sometimes include violence, struggles to speak and also has epilepsy.

Despite her condition, she loves The X-Factor, dancing, soaps and is a “very bubbly” teenager who enjoys spending time with her older sister, Melissa.

Mrs Leigh added: “We won’t give up on our daughter, she is our everything.”

The family’s plight has been supported by MP Matthew Offord and Conservative Councillor for Edgware, Brian Gordon.

Cllr Gordon said: “In my view, the desire of Sabrina’s parents to send her to Langdon College is a very reasonable one. I have heard no convincing reason as to why the council shouldn’t support it.

“I hope there will be a change of heart.”

Barnet Borough Council said students at Oak Trees spend three years there before graduating.

They said her parents could lodge an appeal with the SEN Tribunal if they were unhappy with the decision.

It added: “The council aims to make provision for its vulnerable adults and children as close as possible to Barnet.

“Provision is available for this young person locally – both for her supported living and for her education.

“An assessment would be carried out based on the student’s individual needs, including cultural and religious needs, looking at all available resources in the area.

“Any decision needs to take into account the efficient use of the council’s resources for the whole community of Barnet, including other vulnerable young adults.”

Comments (6)

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6:04pm Wed 18 Jun 14

Neville Longbottom says...

Why does she have to stay in 'Jewish care.'
Why does she have to stay in 'Jewish care.' Neville Longbottom
  • Score: 7

7:49pm Wed 18 Jun 14

jessicafeldman says...

This is HORRIFIC!!!! Typical Barnet Council though I myself am Jewish and completely understand where the family are coming from its bad enough with the mother being unwell but now the stress of this honestly!!!!

I would set up a fundraiser if I was her mum and raise the money but then after that its the same old and back to square 1 this girl clearly needs 24 hour care as stated above the council should do something about this
This is HORRIFIC!!!! Typical Barnet Council though I myself am Jewish and completely understand where the family are coming from its bad enough with the mother being unwell but now the stress of this honestly!!!! I would set up a fundraiser if I was her mum and raise the money but then after that its the same old and back to square 1 this girl clearly needs 24 hour care as stated above the council should do something about this jessicafeldman
  • Score: -2

3:41pm Thu 19 Jun 14

Mr Reasonable says...

It is totally disingenuous for Cllr Gordon to say he can see no convincing reason for the council not to support this request. He, as part of the ruling conservative group, voted for massive cuts to children's services and adult social care and indeed voted for a cut in council tax this year which had a direct impact on budgets for exactly this type of care.
It is totally disingenuous for Cllr Gordon to say he can see no convincing reason for the council not to support this request. He, as part of the ruling conservative group, voted for massive cuts to children's services and adult social care and indeed voted for a cut in council tax this year which had a direct impact on budgets for exactly this type of care. Mr Reasonable
  • Score: 6

11:00pm Thu 19 Jun 14

Mr. Datchery says...

Neville Longbottom wrote:
Why does she have to stay in 'Jewish care.'
Well maybe because she likes the ethos there and perhaps because it could end up costing £38000 as opposed to £102000. I'm sure you have expressed opinions about 'tax payer's money' in the past. I suspect this is about the Council wanting to avoid precedents where people go to places they can't close down to save money and then come up with stupid excuses about it being the best for all concerned.
[quote][p][bold]Neville Longbottom[/bold] wrote: Why does she have to stay in 'Jewish care.'[/p][/quote]Well maybe because she likes the ethos there and perhaps because it could end up costing £38000 as opposed to £102000. I'm sure you have expressed opinions about 'tax payer's money' in the past. I suspect this is about the Council wanting to avoid precedents where people go to places they can't close down to save money and then come up with stupid excuses about it being the best for all concerned. Mr. Datchery
  • Score: 0

12:47pm Wed 25 Jun 14

harvey_uk says...

School places are short across Barnet, let alone paying for someone to go Manchester just because the parents cannot cope and they demand the local authority pay for their kid to be taught in a Jewish school.Why doesn't the mum move to Manchester with the kid and apply for the school locally, what sort of parents are these just to send off their child so far and want to leave the responsibility of their religions teaching to a school rather then take the duty on themselves.
School places are short across Barnet, let alone paying for someone to go Manchester just because the parents cannot cope and they demand the local authority pay for their kid to be taught in a Jewish school.Why doesn't the mum move to Manchester with the kid and apply for the school locally, what sort of parents are these just to send off their child so far and want to leave the responsibility of their religions teaching to a school rather then take the duty on themselves. harvey_uk
  • Score: 0

5:30pm Wed 25 Jun 14

Mr. Datchery says...

harvey_uk wrote:
School places are short across Barnet, let alone paying for someone to go Manchester just because the parents cannot cope and they demand the local authority pay for their kid to be taught in a Jewish school.Why doesn't the mum move to Manchester with the kid and apply for the school locally, what sort of parents are these just to send off their child so far and want to leave the responsibility of their religions teaching to a school rather then take the duty on themselves.
"School places are short across Barnet," so why not pay for her to a school outside the Borough at potentially a third of the price?
"Why doesn't the mum move to Manchester with the kid and apply for the school locally, what sort of parents are these just to send off their child so far"
Yes just like all the parents of children at Public Schools
"..want to leave the responsibility of their religions teaching to a school rather then take the duty on themselves."
"The Education Act (1996) requires that the curriculum for every maintained school includes provision for Religious Education for all pupils on the school roll"

I had hoped that this commenter had become invisible like the giant white rabbit he is named after but as usual he can't resist any opportunity to attack the Jewish comminity in any way he can.
[quote][p][bold]harvey_uk[/bold] wrote: School places are short across Barnet, let alone paying for someone to go Manchester just because the parents cannot cope and they demand the local authority pay for their kid to be taught in a Jewish school.Why doesn't the mum move to Manchester with the kid and apply for the school locally, what sort of parents are these just to send off their child so far and want to leave the responsibility of their religions teaching to a school rather then take the duty on themselves.[/p][/quote]"School places are short across Barnet," so why not pay for her to a school outside the Borough at potentially a third of the price? "Why doesn't the mum move to Manchester with the kid and apply for the school locally, what sort of parents are these just to send off their child so far" Yes just like all the parents of children at Public Schools "..want to leave the responsibility of their religions teaching to a school rather then take the duty on themselves." "The Education Act (1996) requires that the curriculum for every maintained school includes provision for Religious Education for all pupils on the school roll" I had hoped that this commenter had become invisible like the giant white rabbit he is named after but as usual he can't resist any opportunity to attack the Jewish comminity in any way he can. Mr. Datchery
  • Score: 0

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