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Surrey County Council twice failed to resolve issues for boy with special needs

Surrey County Council has been told to apologise again to the family of a boy with special educational needs because it failed to do what it promised to resolve problems highlighted in a previous Ombudsman complaint.

In a heavily critical report, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has also commented on the council’s “unfocussed approach” to handling the complaint and dealing with the Ombudsman’s office, along with its lack of joined-up communication between departments.

The Ombudsman’s original investigation found the council failed to provide the boy with the therapy he was assessed as needing. The council was also told to identify whether any other children in the county had been affected by the same failings.

Following that investigation, the council promised to apologise to the family, pay them a sum of money and obtain assessments from relevant professionals to ensure the boy’s education did not suffer because of the lack of therapy.

Although given a month to implement the recommendations, the council did nothing until prompted to by the Ombudsman. At one point the council told the Ombudsman the financial remedy had been paid to the family, even though it had not.

During the Ombudsman’s follow-up investigation, the council provided evidence that the new school the boy was attending was providing the therapy set out in his Education, Health and Care Plan and so it had met that part of the Ombudsman’s previous recommendations.

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

“Members of the public can only have trust in their local authorities if they deliver what they promise. Surrey County Council did not do this, and I am particularly concerned it took several prompts from my office to make it happen. This report holds the council publicly accountable for the delayed resolution for the family.

“Ultimately, while the boy at the heart of this complaint was receiving the support he needs, if the council had taken a more consistent and joined-up approach to responding to our enquiries we could have been reassured this was the case at an earlier stage.

“I now encourage Surrey County Council to scrutinise how it works with my office and put in place measures to ensure it deals with future complaints and enquiries in a more appropriate way.”

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

In this case the council has been asked to send the family a further written apology and pay them a further £250 to recognise the injustice.

The council should also show it has reviewed its processes to ensure it responds appropriately to the Ombudsman and checks for full and prompt completion of each part of any agreed complaint remedy.

Article date: 14 November 2018