Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 03 Jun 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms X complained about the Council’s failure to provide suitable education to her daughter between 2015 and 2018. We have discontinued our investigation as the complaint is late and there are no good reasons to exercise our discretion to investigate.
- Ms X complained on behalf of her adult daughter, Miss Y. She said the Council had failed to provide Miss Y an education after she stopped going to school in 2015. In addition she said the Council:
- failed to tell her about Education Health and Care Plans (EHC plan) when she sought advice from it in 2016;
- delayed in making a decision whether to assess Miss Y for an EHC plan in 2018;
- failed to write an EHC plan that met Miss Y’s needs; and
- delayed in completing a proper assessment of Miss Y’s social care needs in 2019.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
- We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
- We cannot investigate a complaint if someone has appealed to a tribunal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- The First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) considers appeals against council decisions regarding special educational needs. We refer to it as the SEND Tribunal in this decision statement.
How I considered this complaint
- I discussed the complaint with Ms X and considered the information she provided the Ombudsman.
- I read the Council’s complaint response to Ms X.
- Ms X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
Education and Health Care plans
- A child with special educational needs may have an EHC plan. This sets out the child’s needs and what arrangements should be made to meet them.
- A parent, education provider or the young person (when aged over 16) can ask for an EHC needs assessment. Following that request, the Council has six weeks to decide if an assessment is necessary and tell the parents. A decision not to complete an assessment is appealable to Tribunal.
- If the Council agrees to complete an EHC needs assessment and decides to issue an EHC plan, it must complete that process within 20 weeks of the initial request. The Council must then ensure the EHC plan is reviewed at least once year. We cannot change the contents of an EHC plan or name a different school. Only the Tribunal can do this.
- Ms X said that Miss Y stopped going to school in 2015 when she was in Year 10. Ms X said at first, Miss Y did not receive any education until she was offered support through the Hospital Education Service. However, because of its location Miss Y stopped attending. Following threats of prosecution Ms X took her off-roll.
- Ms X said in 2016 she approached the Council for support about how to meet Miss Y’s educational needs. She said it did not tell her about EHC plans.
- Ms X applied for an EHC needs assessment in May 2018. When the Council did not decide whether it would complete an assessment of need within the six-week statutory timeframe, Ms X complained. The Council responded to that complaint.
- The Council issued Miss Y’s EHC plan in December 2018. Miss X was unhappy with the content of the EHC plan. In March 2019, she started the process of appeal to tribunal. She arranged further assessments of Miss Y’s needs.
- Ms X asked the Council to complete a children’s social care assessment as part of the EHC plan assessment. Ms X said between September 2018 and January 2019 the Council completed four assessments. These did not identify Miss Y as requiring social care support.
- Ms X asked the Council to complete an adult social care assessment for Miss Y in June 2019. She complained to the Council about that assessment in August 2019. The Council concluded that assessment in November 2019. It assessed Miss Y as having care and support needs.
- Ms X contacted the Ombudsman in November 2019 about Miss Y’s lack of education since 2015. We told her to complain to the Council before we could consider the matters she complained of.
- Ms X complained to the Council in March 2020, after the tribunal was concluded. Unhappy with the Council’s response, she brought her complaint to the Ombudsman.
- I have discontinued my investigation into Ms X’s complaint. The substantive complaint is about Miss Y’s lack of education between 2015 and 2018. This complaint is late. As the Council took steps to prosecute Ms X for Miss Y’s non-attendance in 2016 and as Ms X applied for an EHC plan in 2018 I am satisfied Ms X knew the Council were responsible for educational provision. Additionally, Ms X complained to the Council about delays in the EHC assessment process in 2018. There is no good reason for Ms X not bringing the complaint to us sooner.
- Ms X has stated she does not want the Ombudsman investigating the other matters she complains of as she feels that the primary injustice to Miss Y would not be rectified.
- I have discontinued my investigation as the substantive matter Ms X complained about is late.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman