Russian orphans action dropped

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A legal action against the Comhairle over shortcomings in the learning support for two disabled Russian orphans while being educated in Scalpay has been formally dropped at Stornoway Sheriff Court.

The action brought last year was suspended to enable the parents of the two children to seek legal aid to continue their case.

However, when the legal action recalled at Stornoway Sheriff Court recently both sides agreed to drop the matter without costs being awarded.

But though the proceedings have been dropped the girls’ adoptive mother, Mrs Janet Wilson has hinted that this may not yet be the end of the road in pursuing the council. The family were now planning an extended holiday and would be considering their next move then.

She explained that the family had been advised by Counsel in Edinburgh that their case would be unlikely to succeed in the Court of Session.

“It was with a heavy heart we have had to take the decision to end it now. But it is not the end of it for me, it’s only the end of it from a legal point of view. Unfortunately, we just cannot go any further down that route,” said Mrs Wilson.

Roger and Janet Wilson were suing the Western Isles Council for £6,000 compensation - £3,000 for each child - claiming the local education authority neglected the girls’ special needs education when they lived in Scalpay. Mrs Wilson now lives with her husband and children, Adel, 14, and Karina, 10, at School Hill in Dyke, Moray.

The legal action was the latest development in a long-running row that sparked off after the family moved to Scalpay from Tenerife.

The children, Adel and her sister, Karina, who are both partially disabled, became pupils at Scalpay Primary School in April 2006, but though Adel had spent only a matter of months in the UK, her adoptive parents claim she was given no additional help with her English or hearing disability.

Unsatisfied with the response from the council to their concerns, the Wilsons obtained an independent adjudication which identified a series of failures in the way council education officials dealt with the girls, who spent their early years in separate Russian orphanages.

A subsequent investigation by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman into the council’s handling of the Wilsons complaints led to chief executive Malcolm Burr apologising to them for “failing to provide a level of service as might have been expected.”

The report by a Scottish Government adjudicator found that neither girl received an “individual learning plan” despite their troubled backgrounds, including the effects of their birth mother’s drinking while pregnant, and the council’s apparent failure to inform the principal learning support teacher of Adel’s hearing problems.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar accepted the recommendations of the report, but rejected claims it had not met the girls’ needs and questioned the parents’ decision to take the children out of school.

In 2009 the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman recommended the council review its complaints procedures following an investigation over claims the council had failed to protect a child from bullying at school.

It did not uphold the allegations, but it did recommend the council bring in new procedures to deal with complaints, which the council has accepted.