Steven Downes, the editor of Inside Croydon, has been nominated for a prestigious award for this website’s campaigning journalism over the provision, or lack of it, for young Croydon residents with autism and special educational needs.
Anna Kennedy Online, the leading autism charity, has announced the short lists for its 2018 Autism Hero Awards, which are due to be announced at a gala ceremony in central London on October 13. Among the 12 award categories is “Top Journalist”, with Downes listed for his coverage of the struggles of multiple families to get Croydon Council, and other agencies, to provide them with the appropriate care and support which, very often, they are entitled to by law.
Anna Kennedy Online is the web arm of a charity network established by the mum from Middlesbrough who, with her husband, remortgaged their home to raise funds to open a school for children with special educational needs. The charity has since extended its support for children through two schools, a college and a respite home.
Anna Kennedy was made OBE in 2012 for her work. “Announcing the 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Hero Awards shortlists, Kennedy said, “Together with my team we want to celebrate the forgotten heroes that go the extra mile and make life changing steps that impact and improve the quality of life for autistic individuals and the lives of their families.”
Inside Croydon’s coverage of the often absent SEND provision includes our recent report on how Croydon Council is breaking the law by failing to provide adequate and coherent advice and information on its Local Offer website.
In the midst of reporting on Croydon’s failing Children’s Services, we also exposed how Croydon Council’s Autism Board, a statutory body, failed to hold any meetings for nine months – possibly because its chair, a councillor, was too busy seeking re-selection to stand in the local elections.
Inside Croydon has regularly provided a platform for parents and carers of young people on the autism spectrum to air their views – and their plaintive pleas for help.
In one case, we detailed the battle of one family to secure the support they were entitled to by law, but which was deliberately frustrated by council officials for three years. Inside Croydon has also documented the all-too-regular failings of the local authority, as it has received repeated damning judgements by the Local Government Ombudsman, including in once case where the Ombudsman described “a catalogue of unacceptable failings by London Borough of Croydon, which has left a family stretched to breaking point”.
Today, Steven Downes said, “I am flattered and humbled even to be considered for this award.
“After all, I have simply done what any journalist would try to do: finding and telling important human stories, of local families who have been ill-served by the very people that are supposed to be there to help them.
“I’d like to thank the many mums, dads and Croydon families who have had the courage to share their stories with me, so that I might better highlight the shortcomings that they have to deal with, on a daily basis.”
The Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards celebration is taking place at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel, Portman Square, on Saturday October 13. All proceeds from the evening will be donated to the Anna Kennedy Online charity to continue its dynamic work in raising Autism awareness within society.