A Perthshire mother has spoken of her outrage after council officials tried to partner her autistic son with a convict.
Arlene Fairlie Bruce’s son Duncan Fairlie, 16, is one of 18 pupils from the former New School at Butterstone who are still waiting for alternative education provision after their school shut.
Arlene, from Abercairny, near Crieff, said the teenager lives with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and mild learning difficulties.
Officials offered him an educational placement at council facility Westbank, in Perth, to occupy him while a long term replacement for the school is found.
Arlene said she was “gobsmacked” to discover this meant working next to an 18-year-old offender at the gardening facility, which has a main group of users consisting of offenders serving community payback orders.
She said: “Perth and Kinross are offering little packages so they can help Duncan when he is not in education so they offered some types of placement where he could do things that he enjoys. Duncan enjoys being outdoors and working in gardens. That is what he likes to do.”
She said she was not initially invited to view the facility. “I thought this was quite an important decision so I really wanted to be there.
“We went there and were getting shown around and the general chit chat. I asked them who are these people and they were getting a bit shifty.
“Then it dawned on me, these were people doing community service. I thought to myself, ‘they want to place my vulnerable son in the same area as offenders’.”
She said they suggested Duncan would notshare facilities with those serving pay back orders but he would be paired with one other 18-year-old offender.
“They planned to put Duncan with this man for the next three weeks while he finished his community service. I couldn’t believe it.
“They said he was quite vulnerable himself. They said he had been led astray but I was thinking, ‘I don’t care’. When I walked away, I thought, ‘I can’t believe that just happened’. Duncan has never committed an offence. I was absolutely gobsmacked.
“They telephoned the next day and asked if I had made my decision. I said it’s most definitely a no. I’m not having my son being put in the same space as offenders. These people are criminals and my son is not.”
A spokesperson for Perth and Kinross Council said staff were trying to establish education, care and support packages for those affected by the school closure.
“Westbank is a site where partners offer a range of community learning, education and employability options for a wide range of people.
“It offers placements and work experience for school pupils and modern apprenticeships. The council’s unpaid work team is also based there.”