Derby girl misses out on education because of council delays

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised Derby City Council after a girl with autism missed out on around 18 months of special education support because of council delays.

The girl was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder in 2015 and was experiencing increasing anxiety, which eventually led to her refusing to go to her mainstream school.

The council started an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment in January 2017. The final EHC plan was issued in April 2018. The mother complained to the council about the time it took to complete the EHC Plan, and then to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council took too long to issue the final EHC Plan, and also took too long to start consulting with schools about a place for the girl or identify a suitable placement. The Ombudsman also criticised the council for not providing sufficient alternative education for the girl while she was out of formal education.

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

"Because of the council’s delays this girl was out of education for five and a half terms – time that will be difficult for her to claw back.

“I am concerned the council has argued its duty to make alternative provision did not arise until it had completed an EHC needs assessment, when in fact guidance states that it should have been in place from the sixth day of her absence.

“I hope the training the council has agreed to complete with all staff dealing with special educational needs provision will help ensure the correct procedures are widely recognised and such significant errors are not repeated 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 daughter £7,200 for being out of education and without any special educational provision for about 18 months. It will also pay the mother £500 for her distress and a further £675 for the cost of an occupational therapy report.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to arrange staff training for all staff involved in special educational needs.

Article date: 06 February 2020

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