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Autistic boy forced to live in cramped flat

PUBLISHED: 12:15 12 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 07 September 2010

A MAIDA Vale mother says her desperate pleas to be moved out of her over-crowded home for the sake of her autistic son have been ignored by the council. Maria D Angelo, who lives in a two-bed flat on Chippenham Road, said she has been begg

Sanchez Manning

A MAIDA Vale mother says her desperate pleas to be moved out of her over-crowded home for the sake of her autistic son have been ignored by the council.

Maria D'Angelo, who lives in a two-bed flat on Chippenham Road, said she has been begging Westminster Council to relocate her to a larger house since her 12-year-old son, Joel Francis, was diagnosed with autism in 2007.

She says her desperation stems from the increasing pressure sharing a bedroom is putting on her son and his eight-year-old sister Maria.

Joel Francis's condition means that he has difficulty understanding when people are upset and this has put strain on his relationship with his sister - particularly when they are living in such close proximity.

"The problem is my son needs to have his own space," said Ms D'Angelo.

"He touches all my daughter's stuff and I can't tell you how many things have been broken.

"She gets so upset but he just doesn't understand feelings."

Ms D'Angelo said that she has continually asked if she can be moved to a house with one more bedroom to provide her children with their own rooms as soon as possible.

But she says Westminster's housing department has little sympathy for her family's situation - refusing to move her because her son's illness is "not life threatening".

Instead she was advised to register on the normal housing list, which can be so extensive that her children could be grown up before she is moved.

The council has defended their refusal to fast-track Ms D'Angelo's application on the basis she is a housing association rather than a council tenant.

But the 50-year-old single mother said she contacted her housing association and was told they had no larger properties in the borough, so she had to go to Westminster as a last resort.

Ms D'Angelo also stressed that moving out of the area would make her son's condition worse.

"When you have an autistic child you can't have too much disruption in their lives," she said.

"Joel Francis is established at school and it would make him ill if I took him out."

Regent's Park and Kensington North MP Karen Buck has taken up Ms D'Angelo's case and says she has been approached by a number families with similar complaints.

"Over recent years I've taken on more and more families with children on the autism spectrum and are trying to get the council's housing department to recognise that autism does have an impact on people's living arrangements," said Ms Buck.

"Westminster seems to believe that the only medical condition that impacts on housing are problems with walking and stairs."

Suzi Browne, spokeswoman for the National Autistic Society, added: "Autism is a serious, lifelong and complex condition, which can affect people in very different ways. It is therefore crucial that care assessments by local authorities take into account the unique challenges faced by people with autism and the specific needs of individual families.

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