Hackney Homes evict severely autistic boy and his family, despite medical staff pleas

PUBLISHED: 13:11 17 May 2013 | UPDATED: 13:15 17 May 2013

Mother-of-three Debbie Hawkins with George, left, Anna and Alfie.

Mother-of-three Debbie Hawkins with George, left, Anna and Alfie.


A severely epileptic boy and his family were evicted from their home and split up last week due to bureaucratic rules – despite pleas from medical staff warning that the move could cause him to suffer life-threatening fits.

Debbie Dawkins and her three children have been forced to leave the council home her parents had inhabited for the last 40 years in Morton Close, Upper Clapton, after her father’s death two years ago. Hackney Homes’ rules do not allow her to take over her father’s tenancy and last Tuesday was eventually forced to leave.


Although the family is entitled to a larger four bedroom council property, Hackney Council insisted that they needed to vacate their current home and move into temporary accommodation until a suitable house with disabled access became available.

This was despite health professionals pleading with housing staff to wait until a suitable property was found because of how the upheaval of moving into temporary accommodation could affect Ms Dalligan’s 16-year old wheelchair-bound son George, who suffers from Dravet Syndrome.

The degenerative autistic condition means he suffers from epilepsy and learning difficulties and needs around-the-clock care.

Jon Wheater, director of care and family services at Richard House children’s hospice, where George often stays for respite care, told Hackney Homes in a letter: “George needs stable surroundings as the likelihood of increased seizures and challenging behaviours will increase over periods of change and will very likely lead to him requiring higher levels of supervision, medication re-assessment and more direct care. George naturally displays challenging behaviours and his demeanour can be interpreted as loud and aggressive, especially when in new surroundings and with unfamiliar places or with strangers.”

Adelaida Martinez, consultant paediatric neurologist from the Royal London Hospital added: “I am aware of the tenancy rules that the borough has but I feel this is the time when the rules need to be able to accommodate people who are in desperate need of a stable home.”

A faulty heating system operating at full blast at the temporary accommodation in Forest Road meant the family had to be split up, with George staying at Richard House because his fits can be triggered by heat.


Ms Dalligan said: “I am really struggling with three children and dealing with George, who has a life-limiting and life-threatening condition. It just does not make sense to move us to emergency accommodation and move us again a few days or week later.

“Caring for a severely disabled child is very hard and I am using every ounce of energy I have. I am normally a very strong person but I feel this has just tipped me over the edge.”

Deputy Mayor, Cllr Karen Alcock, apologised that the family had been split up.

“I have asked for a review from officers how this issue arose and to ensure the correct procedures are in place to ensure cases such as this can be more quickly resolved in the future,” she said.

“Our housing needs team is working with Ms Hawkins and we hope to find her a new home that suits her family’s needs as soon as possible.”

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Hackney Gazette. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hackney Gazette