Surrey boy with special needs spent too long in inappropriate school

Surrey County Council took 15 months too long to issue a disabled boy’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, and unfairly limited his father’s ability to chase for updates, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.

The boy, who has significant Special Educational Needs (SEN), spent too long in a school unable to provide the right occupational therapy support, because of the council’s delay. When the council finally issued a new plan, it agreed to send the boy to a different school with suitable provision.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found a long delay in issuing the boy’s EHC Plan and for restricting the father’s communications without good reason. It also found the council at fault for claiming it did not know about the boy’s missing therapy sessions for more than a year after the father first informed them.

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

“We have issued a national report on councils’ handling of EHC Plans, and numerous reports since of individual councils getting things wrong in this area. I urge councils to take note of the advice and recommendations they contain.

“This case was beset with misinformation and poor communication from the council with the family. On a number of occasions we asked officers to back up their assertions about what the father had agreed, and its reasoning behind certain decisions. The council provided us with little or no evidence.

“This is unfortunately the second time we have upheld a complaint from this family about the council’s poor communication. I welcome its ready acceptance of my recommendations, and hope the council will now learn the lessons about keeping people properly informed.”

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 apologise to the father for the 15-month delay in issuing the EHC Plan, wrongly telling him it was unaware of missing occupational therapy sessions, and seeking to restrict his communication without good reason.

The council will also pay the father £3,000 for his son’s lost school provision and a further £250 for his time and trouble in having to pursue the matter, as well as £500 for the frustration caused by restricting his communications.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public.

In this case, the council has agreed to arrange training for its SEN staff to ensure they are aware that attending a specialist school does not automatically meet a child’s special educational needs when the EHC plan is out of date, and that they should not restrict a person’s communications without evidence.

Article date: 27 March 2019

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