Luton to review some of its special educational needs services following Ombudsman’s investigation

Luton Borough Council has agreed to create a detailed action plan to improve some of its services for children with special educational needs after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman uncovered significant concerns during a recent investigation.

The Ombudsman upheld a complaint about the education provided to a primary school aged child, and found the council had not reviewed or amended the child’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan as required by law. During that investigation, the Ombudsman discovered Luton was carrying out significantly fewer annual reviews of children’s EHC Plans than the law requires.

The investigation found Luton could not accurately say how many annual reviews it had undertaken because it does not have complete information about review meetings which have taken place in its schools.

When the Ombudsman made further inquiries about the way the council reviews plans, it could not provide figures for the number of plans which have been amended and issued. It also could not give numbers for the amount of plans it has decided to stop maintaining, or where it has made the decision to continue with them unamended.

Overall the council’s information showed it did not have an adequate system to ensure children’s EHC Plans are reviewed properly as required by law and statutory guidance, and the council had not been monitoring the delivery of those plans it had issued.

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

“Our investigation into the concerns raised by a mother about the services provided to her child echo those raised by both the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted in their joint review of Luton’s special educational needs services.

“It is vitally important that councils make regular reviews of children’s EHC Plans to ensure they meet the children’s current, rather than historic needs. The council is aware that reviews are not being held for some children, but has stressed it is working hard to improve its information systems.

“I welcome the steps the council is making to improve its services for children in its area and it will keep us informed of the action it is going to take. We have also informed Ofsted of our findings under our information sharing agreement with them.”

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 £4,086 for the child’s educational provision and a further £500 for the mother’s distress and time and trouble. It will also pay them a further £100 to acknowledge the frustration it caused and delaying the family’s right to appeal.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to produce a detailed action plan to produce its own procedures for monitoring the delivery of all its EHC Plans through annual reviews. This plan will give a timescale for when it plans to put the procedures in place and the staff training needed to implement this.

Article date: 06 February 2020