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Suffolk County Council (18 008 443)

Category : Education > Special educational needs

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 03 Dec 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s special educational needs assessment for her child. A Tribunal is currently considering the needs and we cannot establish any injustice until the Tribunal’s decision is known.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, says the Council delayed in assessing her child, B’s, educational needs, and obtained inadequate assessments.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate a complaint if someone has appealed to a tribunal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
  2. SEND is a tribunal that considers special educational needs. (The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (‘SEND’))
  3. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
  4. 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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mrs X provided with her complaint and the Council’s replies which it provided. I considered Mrs X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X says she applied in April 2018 for a special educational needs assessment for her 12 year old child, B. The Council agreed and started the assessment. Mrs X says it did not contact the right professionals and those that it did, unreasonably delayed in making contacting. She says this includes a lack of sensory assessment and occupational therapy provision. She says that she has had to pay for her own assessments.
  2. The Council issued the final Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), which sets outs the extra support B should get, at the end of October. The EHCP guidance says it should take 20 weeks from the assessment to the final EHCP being issued. Here it has taken longer.
  3. Mrs X has appealed the EHCP wording to the Tribunal, SEND.


  1. We cannot investigate whether the EHCP is worded in a way that meets B’s needs as Mrs X has appealed this to SEND.
  2. We cannot assess the adverse impact of any unreasonable delay in the assessment process until the Tribunal finishes. This is because we cannot work out what provision B has missed out on due to any delay.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not and cannot investigate Mrs X’s complaint. This is because SEND is considering her child’s educational needs and we cannot assess any injustice to her and her family until the Tribunal’s decision is known.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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