A Sheffield boy with special educational needs has missed out on much of his senior schooling because the city council did not provide suitable alternative education for him, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The Ombudsman has asked the council to pay the boy and his mother nearly £20,000 to make up for the schooling he missed because of the council’s catalogue of errors.
The boy, who is now 15, has Asperger Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Pathological Demand Avoidance. When he could not stay at his first secondary school, the council put in place alternative education on a greatly reduced timetable. This was with an unregistered provider and it did not provide the boy with proper formal schooling.
The boy left his first secondary school in 2015 and eventually started at a second school in April 2018. He did not complete a full week’s education until March 2020.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found 12 faults with the way the council handled the family’s case. These include the council taking too long to create an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan for the boy when he moved from primary school to secondary school. This should have been completed in 2015, but was not done till December 2017. The mum was not sent a copy till May 2018.
The Ombudsman also criticised the way the council dealt with the mum’s complaint. It carried out its own investigation and identified many of the failings but then failed to take action to address these or remedy the injustice caused. The Ombudsman found this was a lost opportunity and contributed to the ongoing delay and frustration for the family.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:
“Last year we upheld an unprecedented 91% of detailed investigations about EHC Plans and we have published numerous reports on the subject in recent years. We commonly hear from parents that they are left to battle through bureaucracy, just to get the support they are entitled to.
“While this case is an extreme example, it serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when councils get things wrong and the devastating affect this has on children’s education and wellbeing and their families who are left to pick up the strain.
“Along with the remedy the council has agreed for this boy and his family, I am pleased it has agreed to undertake a full audit of its alternative education provision, as I am not convinced the action it has already taken has fully resolved the significant issues highlighted by this case.”
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 family and pay them £19,950 to make up for the boy’s lost education, to be used for his educational benefit.
It should also pay the mum £250 for the time and trouble making her complaint and £800 for the avoidable distress of having to delay her own education. It will also pay the family a further £467 for the boy’s lost school meal entitlement.
The council needs now to arrange for an educational psychologist to work with the school and family to establish any additional and identified needs and update his EHC Plan accordingly.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council should review all alternative provision and create an action plan.
Article date: 05 November 2020