Autistic man had no schooling due to council’s lack of support, Ombudsman finds

A Derbyshire man missed most of his secondary education because the county council did not support his special educational needs sufficiently, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

Because of the lack of support the man received throughout his entre time at secondary school, Derbyshire County Council has agreed to pay his mother more than £22,000 to reflect the impact this has had on him. Some of the money will be spent on a quiet space for when he needs time out.

The man, who is autistic, has learning difficulties and significant communication problems, received minimal schooling between 2009 and 2014. He started at a mainstream school but stopped attending regularly soon after. This meant he received none of the speech and language therapy (SALT) or extra support in his statement of special educational needs.

At the time, the school told Derbyshire County Council the boy was being educated elsewhere, but very little work was sent home. His behaviour worsened and his mother asked that he attend a special school. The council eventually agreed to this.

By 2014 the boy’s behaviour had deteriorated to the extent he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

The mother complained to Derbyshire County Council and the council’s own internal investigation found numerous faults with the way it handled the case. It found the support provided for the son was not effective and the services which would have helped him throughout his schooling were not put in place. The council reviewed areas of policy and practice as a result.

In addition to the council’s own findings, the Ombudsman’s investigation found the council’s annual reviews of the man’s education were “wholly ineffective” and did not take place after Year 10.

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

“I welcome the steps the council has already taken to apologise to the family, learn from its mistakes and improve its policies and procedures to ensure this should not happen again.

“And, while we cannot say to what extent the lack of therapy and support has had on the man’s condition, I am pleased it has also accepted my recommendation to pay the family an amount which should provide him with a space to manage his mental health.”

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 £22,500 to reflect the impact of her son’s missed education provision, to be held in trust. It will also pay the mother £1,000 for the distress and uncertainty its actions caused.

Article date: 18 July 2019