The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr P complains the Council has not provided the goods and services that his son, Q, requires. Mr P is responsible for providing Q with those services as Q is being electively home educated. There is no evidence of Council fault.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr P, complains the Council has failed to provide services that his child, Q, needs. He also says the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) Reviewing Officer made groundless complaints about him and his wife and their care of Q and has not issued a revised Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for Q even though the current EHCP is out of date.
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)
- We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- When considering complaints, if there is a conflict of evidence, we make findings based on the balance of probabilities. This means that we will weigh up the available relevant evidence and base our findings on what we think was more likely to have happened.
- SEND is a tribunal that considers special educational needs. (The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (‘SEND’))
- 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 considered the information sent by Mr P and I spoke to him, and Q’s mother, on the telephone. I have sent a copy of my draft decision to Mr P and the Council and will take any comments I receive into account before reaching a decision.
What I found
- Mr P complains the Council failed to provide services to his child, Q, which were specified in his Education, Health and Care Plan. He says this meant Q was not receiving hydrotherapy or physiotherapy or any other goods and services he needed.
- Mr P is electively home educating Q. He says Q has never been registered at a school. The family went to SEND wanting a placement for him at an independent special school. SEND thought another provision could meet his needs. Mr P was unhappy because he said the school SEND ordered had no hoists or any means to look after Q. He says that after this the family became aware of an email written by a Council officer saying; ‘don’t tell the parents they are able to appeal’.
- Mr P could have told the school he was intending to send Q. He could have asked it to tell him when it had the services in place that Q needed and, when it did not do so (if it did not) Mr P could have returned to SEND. It seems that because Mr P did not want Q to attend the school ordered by tribunal, he did not do this. There is no evidence of Council fault. Mr P had the right to appeal if he did not agree with SEND’s findings – he did not need the Council to tell him to appeal or not.
- Because Mr P is electively home educating Q, he is responsible for providing services to Q – including therapy. He needs to approach his GP and ask for these services and follow the NHS complaints process if they are not provided.
Complaints raised by the EHCP Reviewing Officer
- Mr P also complained that the EHCP Reviewing Officer had ‘made several unfounded allegations about misusing funds, missing important appointments and denying access to (the child, and placing) incorrect information in (the) referral’. Although I acknowledge it must have been extremely challenging, when the family was already under a great deal of pressure, we would not criticise Council officers that expressed concerns about a child’s care and then investigated them appropriately. Mr P says following investigation the family was completely exonerated – that is the process that should be followed. I cannot achieve more for Mr P by investigating that point further.
Amendments to Q’s EHCP
- Mr P is unhappy that amendments to Q’s EHCP have taken a long time. He felt the Council would offer improved services if it fully assessed Q’s needs. Given Mr P is responsible for providing Q with services, investigating this will not achieve the outcome Mr P wants. I am not investigating that part of his complaint..
- No fault.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman