Summary: The Council failed to comply with an Ombudsman recommendation to carry out a new assessment of eligibility in three complaints about home to school transport for children with special educational needs (SEN) and mobility difficulties. We are issuing this report because the Council did not comply with our recommendations. We are concerned that, despite the service improvements the Council says it has made, it repeated the same fault.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.
To remedy the injustice the council has agreed to:
- Apologise to all three families for failing to follow our recommendations.
- Reconsider the applications of Ms Q and Mr S’s children as new applications.
- The Council should obtain advice or carry out a face-to-face assessment, as necessary, and determine whether they are ‘eligible’ children under s.508B of the Education Act 1996.
- Pay Ms Q, Ms R and Mr S £250 each for the time and trouble of an additional unnecessary appeal and complaint and for the time sourcing additional evidence which the Council had agreed with us it would get.
- Refund Ms Q, Ms R and Mr S’s out-of-pocket expenses for the period they were without transport.
- Pay each family £10 for each school day they were without transport to acknowledge the time spent transporting their children, the stress and inconvenience, and the lost opportunity to work or undertake other activities.
- Within eight weeks of our report the Council has agreed to carry out further service improvements:
- Review its training, policy and advice to officers and panel members to ensure the fault identified in this report does not continue to be repeated.
- Review again the staffing levels within the department.
- Provide training to all relevant staff on the Ombudsman scheme and the importance of complying with recommendations agreed with the Ombudsman.
- Consider whether officers and panel members would benefit from training on autism and other ‘hidden disabilities’.