Surrey County Council (18 005 886)

Category : Education > Special educational needs

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 08 Feb 2019

Summary: Mr X complains the Council took 18 months between July 2015 and January 2017 to issue a final Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan for his disabled son, Y. This delayed his right of appeal against the EHC Plan and prevented Y from receiving the correct provision for 15 months longer than necessary. The Council also knew about missing occupational therapy (OT) provision for Y six months earlier than it claimed, forcing Mr X to chase the matter for longer than necessary. Finally, the Council sought to restrict Mr X’s communications when it had no good reason to do so. This caused him avoidable frustration, more so as the Council had previously failed to communicate with him properly in a complaint (reference 15 003 601) where we found it had denied Y free home-to-school transport for six months in 2015.

Finding

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.

Recommendations

To remedy the injustice caused by fault, we recommend the Council takes the following action within three months of the date of this report:

  •  Apologises to Mr X for:
    • a delay of 15 school months in issuing the EHC Plan;
    • wrongly telling him it was unaware of missing OT sessions until March 2016; and
    • seeking to restrict his communication without good reason;
  • Pays Mr X £3,000 for Y’s lost provision for 15 school months. It should also pay Mr X £250 for his time and trouble in having to pursue the matter of the missed OT sessions over several months and £500 for the frustration caused by restricting his communications without good reason. This amount reflects the fact that Mr X has experienced similar difficulties in gaining responses from the Council as he did in complaint 15 003 601. These sums total £3,750.

To prevent a recurrence, we recommend the Council arranges training for special educational needs (SEN) staff within three months of the date of this report to ensure they are aware that:

  • attending a specialist school does not automatically meet a child’s SEN when the EHC Plan is out-of-date, and amendments must be made in accordance with statutory timescales; and
  • they should not restrict a person’s communications without evidence of the behaviour that has led to this.

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