A boy with special educational needs missed a year of appropriate schooling because Suffolk County Council delayed in assessing his needs.
The Ombudsman said: “I consider that it cannot normally be right that parents or carers have to commission and pay for their own educational psychologists’ reports to persuade a council to commence a statutory assessment.”
The Children’s Legal Centre complained on behalf of ‘Ms Nigel’ that the Council failed to carry out a statutory assessment of her son, ‘Matthew’ (not their real names for legal reasons), who suffered from Tourettes Syndrome, to determine whether he had special educational needs, and that the Council failed to provide appropriate education for Matthew.
Ms Nigel requested an assessment of Matthew’s special educational needs in September 2006, which the Council refused on the basis of insufficient evidence. But the Council referred the case to an advisory service which in January 2007 recommended, among other things, the completion of a statutory assessment. The advisory service’s report provided clear historical information that Matthew probably had special educational needs, and the Ombudsman found the Council’s decision not to undertake an assessment at this point unreasonable.
Ms Nigel said she was advised to educate her son at home to avoid prosecution, but the Council decided that the home education was inadequate. It took many months to reach this assessment, in part because of the difficulty in contacting Ms Nigel.
A further request for a statutory assessment in June 2007 was refused. Only when the Children’s Legal Centre provided an educational psychologist’s report did the Council agree to an assessment. This confirmed his special educational needs. Matthew was then placed at a special school with a statement of special educational needs. The Ombudsman said, “the Council had clear information that Matthew probably had special educational needs, and there should have been no need for the Children’s Legal Centre to have had to pay for an educational psychologist’s report to persuade the Council of its need to assess Matthew. Had the Children’s Legal Centre not had the resources to commission such a report, Matthew may never have been assessed.”
The Ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice and the Council:
- set aside the money it would have cost the Council to repeat a year of school to be used for Matthew’s future educational needs;
- reimbursed the full costs to Ms Nigel of sending Matthew to the private learning centre including her associated travel costs;
- reimbursed the cost of the educational psychologist’s report commissioned by the Children’s Legal Centre;
- paid £500 compensation to Ms Nigel for her distress and her time and trouble in pursuing this complaint;
- paid £250 compensation to Matthew; and
- reviewed its procedures for assessing children out of school and who may have special educational needs.
LGO satisfied by Council's response: 9 June 2011