A boy with special educational needs has been awarded more than £3,000 after the local government watchdog found he had missed out on a suitable education for seven months.
Essex County Council was criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for failing to provide a suitable education for the boy – and for delays in assessing his needs.
The boy, who has severe learning difficulties, had stopped attending his special school in late November 2014 – not returning after a temporary exclusion.
The council had arranged for a care worker to educate the boy at home from January 2015, but his mother complained that the education was not good enough.
An independent review agreed with her – and added that the boy also needed a thorough assessment of his special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
SEND needs not met
But nothing much changed until September 2015, when the council improved the boy’s education by providing a teacher from his special school.
That school was named as the boy's placement school in a final education, health and care (EHC) plan issued by the council at the beginning of February 2016. The pupil returned to school part-time that September.
However, the pupil's mother remained unhappy and complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King.
Mr King said: “Councils have a duty to ensure appropriate support and education is in place for children who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend school. In this case, although the council put some measures in place, it was simply not enough.”
“As a result of our investigation, Essex County Council will now be making changes to improve services for all children out of school and for those with Special Educational Needs.”
Council at fault
The ombudsman’s investigation found the council at fault for failing to ensure the boy had suitable education during the time it arranged for a care worker to deliver his education.
The council also failed to carry out an early review of the boy’s statement of special educational needs once it became clear his situation had changed.
The boy has been identified as needing significantly more support than was in his original statement, but the council did not issue the boy’s EHC plan until three months after the statutory deadline of 18 weeks.
The ombudsman said that, without delays, it was likely the additional provision in the boy’s EHC plan would have been in place 10 months sooner.
The council has agreed to apologise and pay the mother £2,400 in recognition of the injustice caused by not providing a suitable education for her son – and a further £900 to remedy the injustice caused by the delay in issuing a plan. Both amounts are to be used for her son’s educational benefit.
The mother was also awarded £500 to recognise the extra strain she was placed under in having to repeatedly complain to the council.
'Mistakes were made'
Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “We accept that mistakes were made in the handling of this particular case and have apologised to the family concerned.
“A number of changes have already been made since this case, which dates back to 2015, and we are strengthening procedures to ensure all children have access to an appropriate education.”