London council fails boy with special educational needs on multiple occasions

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has asked a London borough to pay for a family holiday as partial remedy for causing a disabled boy to miss out on nearly two years of specialist support.

Over the past nine years the Ombudsman has upheld four separate complaints about London Borough of Redbridge failing to provide occupational therapy, and latterly one-to-one support, for the boy. Each time, the council followed recommendations to put things right, but the Ombudsman remains concerned about the council’s ability to learn from its mistakes.

The Ombudsman first issued a public report against the authority in 2008 after it failed to ensure the boy received occupational therapy for more than a year. In the most recent case, the boy was without one-to-one support for more than five months after the council acted wrongly when removing it from his Statement of Special Educational Needs.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“The best councils use our investigations to learn from their mistakes and help improve services for everyone. It is particularly worrying that Redbridge council has repeatedly failed the same family.

“While I acknowledge the council had already identified many of the faults my investigation found with the family’s complaint, there was little appreciation of the cumulative effect its on-going failings had on their son.

”I hope the changes Redbridge has now made will result in a significantly improved service both for this family and for others with children who have special needs, and go some way to restoring the family’s trust that the council can properly support their son.”

This latest complaint to the Ombudsman came after his parents discovered the boy had been without the one-to-one support specified in his Statement for five months, until the school decided to provide the support without the council’s input.

Despite not having the powers to do so, a council decision-making panel decided not to fund the 30 hours a week one-to-one support. The council did not tell the parents, who only found out about the decision when the school told them the support would no longer be provided.

The parents complained and the council’s own investigation upheld a number of points, including that its panel may have been acting illegally when it withdrew support.

The council offered the family a small remedy, and assured them changes would be made.

The family then came to the Ombudsman because they felt the council’s remedy and recommendations did not go far enough. The parents said their son had suffered anxiety and distress because he had not received the support he needed. In addition they had lived a life of stress and worry because of the council’s actions, which had led to a lack of trust and affected their health.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.

In this case the Ombudsman has made a number of recommendations, which have been agreed by the council, including that it pays the family £500 in addition to the £500 it has already offered them, to acknowledge the distress and uncertainty caused by its actions. It will also pay them £800 for them to spend on a family break to acknowledge the cumulative effects the injustice has caused for the son.

It will also review a number of its procedures and train staff to ensure the failings identified in the report are not repeated, and report back within three months.

Article date: 14 September 2017