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London Borough of Lewisham (21 004 735)

Category : Education > Alternative provision

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 12 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council dealt with his daughter’s education after she stopped attending school in 2019. This is because the events happened too long ago.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will call Miss C, complains about how the Council dealt with her daughter’s education after she stopped attending school in early 2019. Miss C also complains about how the Council has dealt with her complaints and her requests for information in relation to this matter. Finally, Miss C complaints about the Council’s decision to refuse to carry out an assessment for an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan for her daughter.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  4. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
  5. SEND is a tribunal that considers special educational needs. (The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (‘SEND’))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the Miss C and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. The complainant now has an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.

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My assessment

  1. Miss C’s partner, who I will call Mr Y, complained to the Ombudsman in early-2019 about how a school dealt with matters after his daughter had stopped attending. We explained to Mr Y that we could not investigate complaints about schools.
  2. Mr Y complained again later in 2019, about the Council’s actions in relation to the same matter. We explained he would need to complete the Council’s complaints process, but if no response had been received within 12 weeks, he should contact the Ombudsman again. No further correspondence was received until Miss C complained again in July 2021.
  3. I will not investigate this element of Miss C’s complaint because the events happened too long ago. If the Council had not responded to their complaints in 2019, I see no reason why they could have asked us to intervene much sooner.
  4. I will not investigate how the Council has responded to Miss C’s requests for information about these matters. This is because Miss C has complained about this to the Information Commissioner, who is best placed to deal with such complaints.
  5. Finally, I will not investigate Miss C’s complaint that the Council refused to assess her daughter for an EHC plan. This is because decisions such as these should carry a right of appeal. I consider it reasonable for Miss C to use her appeal rights.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint about how the Council dealt with matters after Miss C daughter stopped attending school in 2019. This is because the events happened too long ago.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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