A MOTHER says better training is needed for staff supporting people on the autistic spectrum.

Rebecca Blackhurst’s son Luke, who had high functioning autism and ADHD, was found dead last year at his home in Fred Emery Court, a supported housing project run by the YMCA in Sillwood Street, Brighton.

At the inquest into the 24-year-old’s death last week, the court heard he died on Sunday, January 20, from a bilateral pneumonia after vomiting in his sleep. He had taken a combination of drugs and their sedative effect meant he did not wake up.

Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley said staff at Fred Emery Court had acted accordingly but Mrs Blackhurst believes there was not enough support in place for her son. She said: “Despite the coroner’s findings, I had concerns for Luke’s safety and level of care.

“There is clearly a need to develop stronger safeguarding processes. I am also really disappointed regarding the lack of understanding regarding Luke’s diagnosis.”

Mrs Blackhurst called staff on Monday, January 21, and requested a welfare check but this was not carried out until the morning of Tuesday, January 22, when Luke was found dead.

She believes Luke was self-medicating and there had been a decline in his wellbeing since he stopped accessing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Rebecca said: “Unfortunately after the age of 18, CAMHS stops. Many people are self-diagnosing and self-medicating as there is limited support.

“I would have thought staff would encourage Luke to go to the adult learning difficulty team at the council or that a key worker would have helped him make an appointment with this service, but it was not addressed. Luke needed gentle prompting.”

She said there was no report on Luke’s diagnosis in his housing record and she believes communication and training needs to be improved in support services.

She said: “Professionals I’ve spoken to all say they know what autism is but the question is, do they? Putting pressure on people with autism can make things much worse.”

Ten days before his death, there had been an incident where Luke had been drinking and had caused a noise disturbance.

His mother said: “Staff had sent him a letter stating there was a serious risk to his health but language like this would only have confused and distressed him further.”

She believes that low support housing services such as Fred Emery Court should be monitored by the Care Quality Commission.

She said: “There needs to be a better framework regarding safeguarding and more intensive training for staff on the handling of service users with this condition.”

She said Luke’s death shocked everyone who knew him, adding: “Luke’s death is a total tragedy, he is irreplaceable.

“Luke was a truly unique person who never ceased to amaze me. His main interests were IT and music.

“He had plans for the future and he spoke about having a family when he was 30.

“There was so much he had to offer the world.”