A boy, who has visual impairments and other medical conditions, was without the support he needed for months because Isle of Wight Council did not clarify a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Tribunal’s decision in time, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The boy’s Education Health and Care (EHCP) Plan was considered by the Tribunal in Spring 2019. Along with other areas, the Tribunal also considered the boy’s health provision needs, including an air conditioning unit at home and a mobile unit for his overnight respite stays, visual aids and adaptations to his home and school, and support with hospital visits. The council disputed this provision.
The Tribunal issued its decision in May 2019, and instead of contacting the Tribunal to clarify its instructions, the council removed the health provision from the boy’s plan and issued a final EHC Plan.
The council did not contact the Tribunal until November 2019 when the boy’s mother raised concerns, by which time it was too late for the Tribunal to comment.
The council has since agreed to fit an air conditioning unit at the boy’s respite placement and has offered financial assistance for him to attend his medical appointments.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“The council knew the correct way forward was to clarify the uncertainty it had about the Tribunal's instructions, but instead ploughed ahead and removed it.
“The council did clarify the position and has since put the health support in place, but this was only after the mother challenged the final version of the plan. Had it done the right thing sooner, the boy would not have been without the support, to which he is entitled, for as long.
“I am pleased the council has now proposed to accept my recommendations to apologise to the family and provide some simple measures to ensure this sort of discrepancy does not occur again, but it is disappointing it has only decided to do this at a late stage of the investigation.”
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 should apologise to the family for its failure to clarify the tribunal’s actions. It should also pay the boy £150, to recognise the distress and anxiety caused by the unnecessary delay in agreeing his support, and the mother £150 to recognise the distress and time and trouble she has been put to in pursuing the matter.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council should provide training or reminders to ensure staff seek to clarify any discrepancies in tribunal decisions at the time the decision is issued.
Article date: 03 June 2021