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Cambridgeshire County Council (20 013 354)

Category : Education > Special educational needs

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 07 Apr 2022

Overview:

Key to names used

  • Mr and Mrs X The complainants
  • Y The complainants’ son

Summary

Mr and Mrs X complained the Council failed to issue an updated education, health and care (EHC) plan for their son, Y, and to provide him with an education. Y has been out of school since March 2020 as he is clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. He has also not received the provision in his EHC plan.

Finding

Fault found causing injustice and recommendations made.

Recommendations

To remedy the injustice caused, we recommend the Council should:

  • apologise to Mr and Mrs X, and Y, for the faults identified in this report;

  • arrange alternative provision for Y which is suitable for his age, ability and aptitude until he can return to school. It should be full time unless the Council can show this would not be in Y’s best interests. If the Council decides to offer Y part-time education it must explain its decision and keep this under review;

  • issue an amended final EHC plan for Y, in line with the agreed amendments in the latest version of the working document, and advise Mr and Mrs X of their right of appeal to the SEND tribunal;

  • secure the provision in this amended final EHC plan and explain to Mr and Mrs X in writing how the provision will be delivered as part of or alongside Y’s alternative provision;

  • set a date for an annual review following the issue of this amended final EHC plan;

  • pay the family £7,000 to recognise the lack of education and special educational needs provision for Y from September 2020 to February 2022. This is based on our guidance on remedies which recommends a payment of between £200 and £600 a month for fault resulting in a loss of educational provision. We consider £500 a month to be suitable remedy, taking account of the provision in Y’s plan and his stage of education, the severity of his special educational needs, the limited evidence of provision being delivered and that additional provision is unlikely to remedy the loss. Mr and Mrs X can use this money to ensure Y catches up, as much as possible, on provision he has missed;

  • pay a further £1,000 to recognise the stress, frustration and time and trouble caused to the family by the faults identified in this investigation; and

  • consider appointing an officer with no previous involvement to oversee the next steps in this case. If the Council decides not to do so, it should provide reasons for its decision.

    To improve services for others, we recommend the Council should:

  • remind officers of the limited circumstances in which families have a right of mediation or appeal and the timescales for each process;

  • remind officers of the need to involve children and their parents in discussions about alternative provision when they cannot attend due to health reasons, and the circumstances in which parents can be asked to seek further medical evidence;

  • remind officers investigating complaints of our guide ‘Effective Complaint Handling for local authorities’ which gives advice to councils on defining and investigating complaints and communicating decisions; and review how its SEND service engages with the statutory duty to cooperate with our investigations and to ensure a full response is provided to our enquiries in a timely way.

The Council must consider the report and confirm within three months the action it has taken or proposes to take. The Council should consider the report at its full Council, Cabinet or other appropriately delegated committee of elected members and we will require evidence of this. (Local Government Act 1974, section 31(2), as amended)

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