Norfolk County Council’s provision for children with special educational needs (SEN) has been criticised in two separate investigations after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman revealed it had already upheld nine similar complaints.
In the first case, a mother complained the council did not provide her son with suitable education provision for nearly two academic years, and took nearly 46 weeks – more than twice the statutory timescale - to complete his Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan. She also complained the council provided her with very little support during the time her son was not receiving full-time education.
In the second case, a boy’s EHC Plan took 26 weeks to produce. And when the primary school-aged boy was excluded from school, the council did not provide him with suitable education provision, causing him to miss out on full-time education for eight months.
Over the past two years, the Ombudsman has upheld nine similar complaints about Norfolk County Council’s provision for children with Special Educational Needs.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“We have issued a focus report on out-of-school education provision for children, and on councils’ use of Education, Health and Care Plans, and expect councils to use these to scrutinise, learn from and improve the services they provide to children in their areas.
“In both cases these children were without the vital support and provision they needed at crucial times of their education. I hope the remedies the council has agreed will go some way to repairing the damage done.
“We welcome the proactive steps the council is now taking to improve its provision and oversight of services for children with SEN, and hope this will ensure children will get the support they need 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 the first case, the council has agreed to pay the family £4,000 to acknowledge the delay in producing the EHC Plan and a further £250 for their time and trouble coming to the Ombudsman.
In the second case, the council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay them £3,500 to recognise the injustice caused by the council’s actions and the time and trouble the family were put to in bringing the complaint. It will also pay the boy’s mother £400 for the cost of commissioning her own dyslexia report, and provide a laptop and any other technological assistance identified in the boy’s EHC Plan.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public.
The council has agreed to a number of service reviews and improvements following the two reports, including examining other ways of providing alternative education for children out of school, and completing an audit of children missing from education for whom it has a duty to provide education.
It will also review its processes to ensure EHC Plans are produced within statutory timescales and improve the way it monitors missing professional advice it needs to complete the plans.
Article date: 16 January 2019