A mum struggling to cope with her severely autistic daughter drowned herself the day after social services told her they would not give her child residential care.
Carol Barnett walked into a river and drowned herself shortly after a meeting with social services to talk about her 10-year-old daughter Deborah in June this year.
She had told her husband Daniel that she could no longer cope with looking after Deborah, who cannot talk, wash or dress herself and requires around-the-clock care.
The inquest hearing in Maidstone, Kent was told that social services had refused to send her to a residential school which would remove some of the burden on her parents.
After Mrs Barnett, 51, phoned her husband telling him she would drown herself in the River Medway, he rushed there and found her lying in the water.
Police later found her car parked nearby and her shoes on the river bed, while two suicide notes were found at the family home in East Peckham.
The inquest heard that Mrs Barnett had struggled with alcoholism and depression ever since the birth of her son Sam, now 14, and her condition worsened after Deborah was diagnosed as autistic.
Her GP, Vanessa Whillier, said: ‘Carol had episodes of depression after her first child and would drink on a daily basis. She didn’t take the autism diagnosis of her second child well. She took it really badly.’
At the time of her death, Mrs Barnett had requested an anti-alcohol drug because she wanted to stop drinking for the sake of her family.
Speaking after the coroner recorded a verdict of suicide, Mr Barnett, 51, said he believed social services’ refusal to send Deborah to a residential school had pushed his wife over the edge.
‘Carol kept asking about residential options but the social worker kept saying no,’ he said. ‘The next morning she took her own life.
‘I can’t believe for one second that what happened in that meeting did not have any effect on her. I’m not saying it’s all social services’ fault, because it’s not, but I feel it really was the last nail in her coffin.
‘Carol’s biggest fear was losing the children. She tried to battle her demons. All she wanted was the best support for Deborah.
‘Social services told me if I can’t cope they will take Deborah into foster care. That’s not what I want, sending her to residential school isn’t about getting rid of her.
‘This tragedy has already ripped my family apart, I believe this would give her the best possible chance at life and keep us together.’
He has submitted another request to Kent County Council for Deborah to receive residential care, but is also concerned for the wellbeing of his son Sam.
‘He went to school one morning, came home and his mother was dead,’ Mr Barnett said. ‘He is obviously still coming to terms with this. He is coming second to Deborah because of her situation.’
A spokesman for the council said: ‘We have every sympathy with Mr Barnett.
‘We have been discussing with him how to support Deborah in the best possible way and we have offered an extensive package of support to meet the needs of the family.
‘At this time we do not feel a residential school is appropriate to meet Deborah’s needs. She is already in a special school which has been rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
‘She is happy and making good progress, both in classes and in after-school activities, and we feel her educational needs are best served by remaining there.
‘We will keep all aspects of Deborah’s education and support for the family under review.’