Mum's appeal after son sets bed ablaze

PUBLISHED: 16:32 18 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:21 03 March 2010

AN IPSWICH mother has appealed for more help to be given to carers of children with special needs after her son set fire to her bed.

AN IPSWICH mother has today appealed for more help to be given to carers of children with special needs after her son set fire to her bed.

Sonia Stephens was at home with her three children – Justin, 15, Jarrell, 11, and Shemiah, seven – last night when the fire was started.

Mrs Stephens, whose husband Alvin was not at their Howe Avenue home at the time, said Justin had found a candle lighter, gone in to her bedroom and set her bed alight.

Justin, a student at Belstead School, was diagnosed with chromosome one disorder when he was 13. It effects part of his brain meaning he cannot do a lot of things automatically, like picking up something he has dropped, and his communication skills are not very good.

Mrs Stephens said she had tried to put out the fire but was unsuccessful.

She said: "My little seven-year-old found the fire and shouted for me.

"I ran up stairs to see what he had done and then ran to the bathroom to get a bucket to try and put the fire out.

"It was too big though so I shut all the doors and got the children out of the house."

Two fire crews, one from Princes Street and another from Colchester Road, attended the fire at 9 last night and brought it under control in about ten minutes. However, the bed was destroyed in the blaze and Mrs Stephens' bedroom suffered smoke damage.

She praised her two youngest children for helping her and Justin when the fire was discovered.

She said: "They care as well. People ignore them but they really care.

"Jarrell was putting Justin's shoes and coat on while I was putting the fire out.

"They are kids, they shouldn't have to go through something like that."

She added that Justin was not aware he had done anything wrong and said: "He doesn't know what he has done. Last night he stood there laughing.

"Luckily we caught the fire quite early."

Mrs Stephens, who is a parent governor at Belstead School, does not blame her son but hopes that the incident will highlight the problems carers face.

She said: "We've been trying to get the council to put locks on the doors because he comes down stairs at night.

"If we'd all been upstairs and he'd come down and done it at night we wouldn't have had a chance.

"They wait for things like this to happen before they do anything."

"I just want to highlight it," she added. "It's not just me dealing with things like this.

"Children like Justin have nothing to do in the evenings. There was an after school club but it shut down and they have had nothing else for months. Justin is bored and he's not tired. He doesn't sleep.

"These kids are part of the community but they're isolated.

"It takes something like this for people to realise the problem."

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. 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 Ipswich Star