London Borough of Redbridge (17 017 724)

Category : Education > Alternative provision

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 03 Sep 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Redbridge was not responsible for B’s education until summer 2017. It was not responsible for the disruption to B’s education from summer 2017 because Waltham Forest failed to relinquish control. Redbridge is no longer responsible for B’s education.

The complaint

  1. Ms M complains about her son B’s education. In particular, Ms M complains
      1. B has not had a school place since 2014; and
      2. B was without education between July and December 2017; and
      3. suitable arrangements for his education are still not in place.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • information provided by Ms M;
    • information provided by the Council;
    • Promoting the education of looked after children. Statutory guidance for local authorities issued by the Department for Education in 2014; and
    • Guidance on Looked After Children with Special Educational Needs placed out-of-authority issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in 2009.
  2. I invited Ms M and the Council to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Ms M’s son, B, is 18. B is autistic. He has significant learning difficulties, sensory processing difficulties, complex needs and epilepsy.
  2. He has lived at a children’s home in the London Borough of Redbridge (‘Redbridge’) since May 2014. His accommodation is arranged and paid for by the London Borough of Waltham Forest (‘Waltham Forest’). This makes B a looked after child.
  3. B had a Statement of Special Educational Needs (and later an Education, Health and Care Plan) maintained by Waltham Forest until 2017 when responsibility for his Plan was transferred to Redbridge.
  4. Waltham Forest has resumed responsibility for B’s EHC Plan and will issue a new EHC Plan.

Complaint a) B has not had a school place since 2014

  1. Waltham Forest arranged accommodation for B at a children’s home in Redbridge in 2014. He has received his education there since May 2014 when his school placement broke down.
  2. The Government has issued guidance to help councils decide who is responsible for a looked after child’s education when the child lives out-of-area. The council that is the child’s corporate parent remains responsible for the cost of the child’s education. Responsibility for the assessment and provision for the child’s special educational needs may transfer to the council where the child lives if this would make the arrangements more practical. However, councils can make any arrangements they see fit in individual cases.
  3. Following discussion between Waltham Forest, his corporate parent (the Council that arranged B’s accommodation and care and is responsible for his educational achievement), and Redbridge, where he lived, Waltham Forest retained responsibility for B’s education. Redbridge was not involved in B’s education until 2017. I will consider B’s education from summer 2017, when responsibility was transferred to Redbridge, below.

Complaint b) B was without education between July and December 2017

  1. Following an Ofsted inspection in May 2017, the children’s home believed that it had to register with the Department for Education as an independent school if it was to continue to provide education for B. The children’s home decided not to register as an independent school and notified Waltham Forest it would have to make alternative arrangements. The children’s home stopped delivering B’s education in summer 2017.
  2. Waltham Forest agreed to transfer responsibility for B’s education to Redbridge. Redbridge began a reassessment of B’s needs, sought professional advice and issued a draft Education, Health and Care Plan.
  3. Problems arose, however, when it came to identifying suitable provision to meet B’s needs. Redbridge approached eight providers, but none could meet B’s needs. Ms M and Redbridge put alternative proposals to the Waltham Forest SEN Panel, but the Panel declined them.
  4. Redbridge arranged further home tuition instead. As an interim, temporary measure, Redbridge arranged for B to receive five, two-hour sessions of tuition each week at the children’s home from 4 December 2017. Ms M wanted ABA-based home tuition (a type of tuition for people with autism), but the Waltham Forest SEN Panel declined. Neither Council was happy with the progress B made. Redbridge identified another provider and sent a proposal to the Waltham Forest SEN Panel for approval. The Panel requested further information.
  5. Since Ms M made her complaint, Waltham Forest has taken back responsibility for B’s education and will issue a new Education, Health and Care Plan.

Consideration

  1. B has complex needs and arranging suitable provision has proved challenging.
  2. Redbridge accepted responsibility for B’s education in summer 2017 following the decision by the children’s home to end B’s education there.
  3. However, Waltham Forest has made the process more complicated than necessary by retaining the final say in arrangements for B’s education following the handover of responsibility for B’s Education, Health and Care Plan to Redbridge in summer 2017.
  4. Government guidance makes it clear that when a looked after child lives out-of-area, and the councils agree to transfer responsibility for his statement or EHC plan to the area in which he lives, the Council for the area in which he lives is responsible for assessing and meeting his special educational needs. The council that is his corporate parent remains responsible for the cost of his education, but it does not have the final say in arrangements for his special educational needs. It does not have to agree or ratify any proposals made by the council where they child lives and does not have a veto. This would conflict with its role as the child’s corporate parent. (Guidance on Looked After Children with Special Educational Needs placed out-of-authority, 2009)
  5. Having agreed with Redbridge to transfer responsibility for B’s Education, Health and Care Plan, Waltham Forest should have allowed Redbridge to make decisions about B’s special educational needs and provision. Waltham Forest should have acted as ‘parent’ and not ‘council’ in the process. That was Redbridge’s role.
  6. Waltham Forest’s failure to relinquish control means it effectively retained responsibility for B’s education. I therefore consider Waltham Forest, is responsible for the injustice caused by the delay in making arrangements for B’s education following the transfer to Redbridge.
  7. Given the circumstances I have outlined above, I do not consider Redbridge was responsible for the disruption to B’s education following the decision of the children’s home to end his provision there.

Complaint c) Suitable arrangements for B’s education are still not in place

  1. Since Ms M complained to the Ombudsman, Waltham Forest has resumed responsibility for B’s education and will issue a new Education Health and Care Plan. Redbridge is no longer responsible for B’s education.

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Final decision

  1. Redbridge was not responsible for B’s education until summer 2017. It was not responsible for the disruption to B’s education from summer 2017 because Waltham Forest failed to relinquish control. Redbridge is no longer responsible for B’s education.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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