Staffordshire Council criticised over provision for autistic teenager

Staffordshire County Council failed to meet an autistic teenager’s educational and care needs.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, in her report, issued today, says the Council failed to review the teenager’s statement of special educational needs (SEN), to follow the SEN Code of Practice for the transition to post-16 provision, and to keep its promise that his adult care needs would be assessed in good time.

The Ombudsman said: “Transition to adulthood is exceptionally difficult for the parents of a child with complex educational and care needs. It is vital that the proper support is in place to ensure that this transition goes as smoothly as possible, but that was not the case here.”

The complainant’s son is severely autistic and an elective mute, with complex learning difficulties, and he requires support with his personal care. When he started college at the age of 16, his behaviour at home indicated that he was extremely distressed by his college day. An annual review meeting noted that he needed one-to-one support and recommended that his statement of SEN be amended.

The complainant asked for a new assessment of his needs, and asked the Council to transfer him to a different school. The Council believed his existing college could meet his needs and refused to provide transport to the other school, which is 15 miles away from the complainant’s home, so she drove him to and from the school herself.

As a result of the Council’s failings, the complainant lost the opportunity for her son’s educational and care needs to be reviewed by professionals. Both she and her son suffered a significant amount of avoidable stress and frustration as a result of this, and as a result of the delay in carrying out the adult care assessment.

The Ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and the Council has acknowledged its failings. She is grateful for its willingness to make amends, but has nevertheless completed her investigation and made her findings public, as she considers this to be in the public interest.

The Council has agreed to the Ombudsman’s recommendations that it should:

  • pay the complainant £5,250 compensation, and
  • instead of paying compensation to her son (who has little comprehension of money), install a swing-seat for him in the garden of his home.

Report ref nos: 10 002 102 & 10 005 663

Article date: 06 December 2011