The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There is no fault in the Council’s decision to issue a penalty notice to Ms X for her son’s unauthorised absence from school.
- Ms X has complained that the Council issued a penalty notice because of her son’s unauthorised absences from school. Ms X says her son, Y, is being bullied and therefore refuses to go to school. She has tried to get her son to attend without success and says the fine from the Council has caused her financial difficulty.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. She must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all the information from Ms X and the Council including the Council’s response to my enquires.
- A copy of this decision was sent in draft to Ms X and the Council. I have considered any comments received in response.
What I found
- Parents are responsible for the regular and punctual attendance at school of their children. Councils can issue a penalty notice for unauthorised absence using powers under the Education Act 1996, as amended. However, they must produce and follow a code of conduct when doing so.
- The Council issued a penalty notice to Ms X as her son, Y, had missed a significant amount of school. Ms X has paid the fine but feels it is unfair. She has argued that she has tried to get Y back to school but he refuses to attend.
- The Council’s code of conduct details the circumstances where it can issue a penalty notice. This includes when there has been involvement from the early intervention services key working participation team and casework is in progress.
- In this case, the participation team invited Ms X to an attendance panel in May 2016 and made an attendance agreement. The agreement outlined actions for the school, Ms X and Y. It also explained if Y does not attend school regularly, the Council may take further action and could issue a penalty notice. Y’s attendance did not improve and the Council sent Ms X a penalty notice in July 2016.
- I understand Ms X feels this is unfair as she has made many attempts to get Y back to school. However, I am satisfied the Council issued the notice in line with its policy and code of conduct and therefore cannot say there has been any fault. The Council has also been working with Ms X and Y to improve his attendance. It says it has offered assistance such as clinical psychology input, a key worker and lifts to school for Y. However, the Council says Ms X and Y have not engaged with services in this regard.
- There is no evidence of fault in the Council’s decision to issue a penalty notice to Ms X following Y’s unauthorised absence from school.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman