Summary: Mr X complains that the Council has delayed in issuing an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) for his son. As a result, the complainant has had to pay for the educational support his son required.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.
To remedy the injustice caused, the Council should:
- apologise to Mr X and his family for the faults we have identified;
- reimburse him £19,343.00, to recognize the money the Council would have paid had it not delayed in completing the EHC Plan. This payment is contingent on itemized receipts and proof of expenditure from Mr X. Interest should be paid to this at the retail price index rate for the period from June 2016, when Mr X first raised a complaint about the backpayment, to February 2019 (this is the date the most recent retail price index figure is available). This amounts to an uplift of 8.3% and a total payment of £20,948.47;
- pay £1,000 for Mr X and his family’s distress caused by its avoidable delays and its failures in the review and complaints process;
- pay £500 for Mr X’s time and trouble in pursuing his complaint with the Council. This is more than we would normally recommend in recognition of the efforts, which Mr X has had to go to, in challenging the Council’s complaint responses and highlighting its legal obligations;
- review its procedures when it receives a notification under Section 24 of the Children and Families Act 2014 that a child in its area may have special educational needs, to ensure that it consults parents and other professionals so to reach a decision within 6 weeks;
- explain, on its website and in written guidance to parents/carers, how requests for a statutory assessment, be they made by telephone or in writing, will be dealt with in accordance with the legislation and Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. If the Council wants a request for an EHC needs assessment in writing, this must be explained to the applicant, with reference to its written policy. Where an applicant has difficulty in submitting a written request, the Council should have procedures to help the applicant complete the required form;
- make available on its website its standard form for making requests for a statutory assessment; The test for whether the Council should consider whether to carry out a statutory assessment of SEN is that a child may have special educational needs which require provision. It does not need to establish that the child does have such needs. The threshold is low, and the Council should reflect this in its local offer, and on its website.
- ensure that its Panels, which make key decisions about whether to proceed with an EHC needs assessment or not, or whether to issue an EHC Plan, keep proper records of their meetings, provide clear reasons for their decisions and they record the information and reports they have considered;
- offer training to its complaint team in respect of the statutory timescales for EHC assessments and how it should remedy avoidable delays in its EHC Plan process, taking into account the findings made in this report;
- if other parents, because of this report, complain to the Council about delays in their child’s EHC Plan process, the Council should be willing to consider these in light of the findings in this case.