Local Government Ombudsman
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Buckinghamshire CC criticised over insufficient education for boy with special needs

Archived press release

Date Published: 06/12/12

Buckinghamshire County Council did not provide enough education for a boy with special needs for over a year finds Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex.

In her report, issued today, she says: “The boy received no education at all between February and May 2010, and then only a little over five hours a week until April 2011. There is no evidence that the Council ever tried to establish what education would be suitable for him and what he could cope with in his medical condition.”

She added: “The Council’s position at the time seems to have been the Education Act 1996 requires only five hours tuition on medical grounds. This is wrong – as a child’s health improves, the hours should normally be increased.”

Mr and Mrs A have looked after their 15-year-old grandson, Z, since he was seven years old. At 13, he stopped attending school because of anxiety related to autism.

Z’s GP referred him to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). CAMHS told the Council that Z was autistic and would be unable to cope in a mainstream school. CAMHS offered Z some education at an attached School Room, but it only had capacity to offer 5.5 hours of education per week. He received education there for almost a year. During this period, Mr and Mrs A had to take on the task of caring for him almost full time.

Although the Council was aware from March 2010 that it was likely that Z had special educational needs, it did not use its powers to assess these. Nor did it tell Mrs A that she could ask for an assessment. Eventually she found out and requested one immediately. Z was assessed in November 2010 and found to need specialist education, but he did not start at a special school until April 2011.

The Ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice because the Council failed to provide Z with suitable education between February 2010 and April 2011 and failed to fulfil its duties under the Education Act 1996.

The Ombudsman recommends the Council to:

  • create a fund equal to the cost of private tuition for the hours of education that Z lost, to be held for him until he is 21 and to be used to provide him with additional tuition, educational opportunities or equipment that an educational psychologist recommends would benefit him, but not for any provision to which he would be entitled as part of his statement of special educational needs, and
  • apologise to Mr and Mrs A and pay them £2,000 in recognition of the impact its maladministration had on them.

On behalf of the Council, the Chief Executive has indicated that it will agree to this remedy.

Report ref no 10 010 281