The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X has complained about how the Council has dealt with her son’s Education, Health and Care needs assessment. There is evidence of fault by the Council.
- Mrs X has complained about how the Council dealt with her son’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. Mrs X says the Council did not assess her son, Y, in line with the relevant law and guidance. It did not complete the assessment on time, failed to consult with the relevant professionals and did not properly communicate its decision. Mrs X also argues the Council failed to engage with her and Y or take their views in to account as it should.
- I have considered Mrs X’s concerns about the delays from the Council. The final part of this statement explains my reasons for not considering the rest of the complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all the information from Mrs X and the Council, including its response to my enquiries.
- A copy of this decision was sent in draft to Mrs X and the Council. I have considered the comments received in response.
What I found
- Mrs X contacted the Council to request an EHC needs assessment for her son Y. Y is dyslexic and Mrs X says he needs additional support at school. The Council assessed Y, but decided his needs could be met by his school and therefore he did not need an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
- The process for assessing special educational needs and issuing an EHCP is set out in legislation and government guidance. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations (2014) say that if, after assessing a child or young person, the local authority decides there is no need for any special educational provisions, it must give notification of its decision within 16 weeks of the initial request for the assessment. The Council must also provide details about the right to appeal the decision and the time limits for doing so.
- Mrs X requested the EHC needs assessment in January 2017. The Council completed the assessment at the end of June 2017 which was outside of the statutory timescale. This delay is fault. The Council says the assessment was delayed while it was gathering information. I understand it may have been necessary for the Council to get further information to reach a decision about Y’s needs, but it should still have complied with the relevant timescales. The Council has also accepted that there was a delay in informing Mrs X of its decision about the EHCP and sending her details about her appeal rights. I consider it likely these delays would have been frustrating for Mrs X particularity as it may have delayed her appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. However, the Council has apologised for these issues which I consider a suitable remedy for the injustice caused.
- There is fault with how the Council has dealt with Mrs X’s son’s EHC needs assessment.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- Mrs X has also raised concerns about how the Council assessed her son and argues that it did not seek information from the relevant professionals as it should have. However, I have not investigated this part of the complaint. Since the Council decided not to issue a EHCP for Y, Mrs X has appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. The law says the Ombudsman cannot normally look at matters where someone has the right to appeal to a tribunal. The Ombudsman also cannot consider matters linked to the appeal. This includes how the Council reached its decision regarding the EHCP and the information it obtained to do this.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman