A heartbroken mum whose autistic little boy was refused a place in a Sheffield scouting group has won a landmark legal payout.
Clare Coyne’s 11-year-old son Thomas was barred from moving up from cubs to scouts at the 36th Ranmoor Scout Group because he ‘lacked independence’.
The mum, who has now won £5,000 in compensation on behalf of her son after a legal battle, wants to raise awareness of their case so other families don’t face the same fate.
Clare said she was ‘shocked and hurt’ to be told the news when registering Thomas for a camping trip.
“I couldn’t believe the scout leader at the time was refusing Thomas a place, based on an assumption because of his disability.
“It was only when I was registering Thomas to attend the trip that the leader delivered the news.
“He then emailed me back saying Thomas couldn’t progress to scouts, or attend the camping trip, because ‘he lacks independence’.
“To be told, with no prior discussion, that he was not progressing to scouts with his friends was devastating.
“I was also shocked and hurt to receive the news by email – especially after acting as parent rep for the group.”
Clare, aged 44, from Fulwood, was dealt a further blow when the scout leader and district commissioner asked her to provide a written apology – for raising a complaint of disability discrimination against them.
She said: “Thomas enjoyed four happy years at Ranmoor beavers and cubs.
“He didn’t cause any problems whatsoever. My child is gorgeous, not violent or aggressive. His former leaders had discussed Thomas’ needs with us, but the scout leader didn’t - and wouldn’t back down on his decision.”
Clare sought legal advice from Sheffield Citizens’ Advice and Law Centre to force the scout group to realise its act of discrimination.
The action was later settled before the case went to county court, and The Scout Association paid £5,000 in compensation which will be held by the court and awarded to Thomas when he is 18.
Thomas has since taken up a place at the 79th St Timothy’s Scout Group in Crookes – but Clare says moving groups has already caused him to miss out.
She said: “The financial compensation can’t replace the friendships and experiences Thomas has missed.
“We want lessons to be learned to avoid another family going through the distress that we have experienced.”
Scout Association spokesman Simon Carter said: “We do intend to take on board any lessons learned in this case.
“Our volunteer team is passionate about making sure we offer scouting to as many young people as possible, whatever their needs.”