Distressed Leeds girl left without proper education for months

Leeds City Council left a young girl without proper education for nine months after she started refusing to go to her primary school because of anxiety, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The girl, who was 10 when the events started, became increasingly anxious about going to school until the school asked her mother to take her home because she was so distressed.

Over the next nine months, the girl was given little education – and at one point her mother had to fund an alternative education placement.

When the girl eventually started engaging with the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) it suggested she had sensory processing difficulties and recommended gathering information for diagnostic tests.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council failed to have a policy in place for children missing education because of ill health. This lack of policy led to the girl’s situation ‘drifting’. The council also failed to maintain oversight of the targeted support clusters – local groups set up to oversee the council’s duties to children out of education. This meant the council wasn’t informed at the earliest stage the girl was not attending school.

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

“Councils have a legal duty to provide suitable alternative provision for children and young people who are missing education for whatever reason.

“In this case, Leeds City Council did not have the proper processes in place, and the lack of a policy resulted in a young girl missing nine months of formal education. Instead of receiving an alternative at the earliest possible time, her case was left to drift.

“I welcome Leeds City Council’s commitment to agreeing to my recommendations and hope the processes it will put in place will ensure other children will not be disadvantaged in a similar way in future.”

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 agreed to pay the mother £1,300 to cover the cost of her daughter’s education over the period. It will also pay her £1,400 for failing to assess her daughter’s needs or provide education between May 2018 and October 2018, and a further £200 for the time and trouble of bringing the complaint to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review the way it oversees services for children and young people out of school and provide training and guidance to staff, schools and services.

It will also create a policy for children missing education for medical needs and review the educational provision in place for children who have not attended school for more than 15 days.

Article date: 08 August 2019

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