Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 27 Aug 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms A’s complaint that the Council is at fault in refusing to provide school transport for her son. It would be appropriate for Ms A to use her right to appeal.
- The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr A, complains that the Council is at fault in refusing to provide school transport for her son.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Ms A has said in support of her complaint and in response to my draft decision, as well as the supporting evidence she has provided. I have spoken with the Council and considered relevant correspondence.
What I found
- Ms A says her son has special educational needs and an Education Health and Care Plan. Although his is attending the school named on the Plan, the Council says he is not entitled to school transport assistance. Ms A disagrees.
- Ms A applied for school transport for her son for the 2018/2019 school year. The Council refused her application and offered her the right to appeal against its decision. Although the Council says it has no evidence that Ms A submitted an appeal, the evidence supports her contention that she did so. It also shows that she asked the Council about the appeal’s progress. However, there is nothing to suggest that the appeal process was concluded. Rather, the Council offered Ms A a place for her son on existing transport, which she had to pay for. As a result, Ms A has incurred transport costs for the 2018/2019 school year. She believes the Council should reimburse her for these costs and pay for free transport in future.
- It is not for the Ombudsman to determine whether Ms A’s son is entitled to school transport assistance. Mr A is entitled to appeal for school transport for the 2019/2020 school year and has said that she has done so. That is the appropriate way to establish her son’s entitlement.
- The Council has confirmed that it will consider Ms A’s new appeal and, in the event that the appeal is allowed, will consider backdating the award. This means both school years will be considered. It therefore places Ms A back in the position she would have been in if her first appeal had been heard, as she expected it to be. It is reasonable for her to pursue her appeal.
- If Ms A believes there is fault in the way the Council considers her new appeal, it is open to her to complain to the Ombudsman at that point.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it would be appropriate for Ms A to use her right to appeal.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman