The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has asked London Borough of Redbridge to audit all children who receive Special Educational Needs provision at a borough school after the council left a boy without the support he needed for more than two years.
The boy attends a special school and has autism and a severe form of epilepsy, needing help with speech and language therapy (SALT), occupational therapy and physiotherapy. By the time he was due to start secondary school in 2015 he was too ill to attend.
Redbridge council did not carry out any assessments to find out whether he could access its home tuition service. He did not return to school for a full year, having not received any education or Special Needs provision in the preceding 12 months.
The boy’s mother queried what Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision her son was receiving at school. A breakdown provided by the school showed no evidence he was receiving either his occupational therapy or SALT provision. His mother started to pay for a weekly physiotherapy session with a different provider.
The ombudsman’s investigation found the council did not put in place adequate alternate provision for the boy, and did not review his Statement of SEN. It also took 27 weeks too long to transfer the boy’s Statement to an Educational Health and Care (EHC) Plan. This was not completed till May 2018, and meant the council missed out on the chance to meet the boys needs and identify and implement alternative provision. In total the boy missed out on his full SEN provision for 16 months after returning to school, on top of the provision he missed out on while unable to attend. It also denied the boy’s family the right to appeal the provision that was put in place.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“Councils have a duty to meet the special educational provisions laid out in Statements and EHC Plans, but in this case the boy missed out on the therapies and support he needed for 16 months, and his mother felt forced to pay for services the council should have ensured were provided.
“I now urge Redbridge council to take on board the recommendations in my report and consider how they might implement them to improve services for children with Special Educational Needs in the borough."
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 boy and his family and pay £4,000 for his lost education and SEN provision for the 2015/16 school year. This should be used for the benefit of the boy’s education.
It should also pay the mum £2,400 to cover the cost of the boy’s physiotherapy sessions she arranged and paid for, a further £3,200 for the boy’s lost SEN provision from when he returned to school and £200 for the distress and time and trouble she was caused.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council should remind staff that the council has a duty to assess children who are out of education due to poor health, and to provide a suitable alternative education. It should also complete an audit of all the children that receive SEN support at the boy’s school, to ensure this provision is being met. If it finds that it is not, it should put an action plan in place to address this. Those affected should also be told about the council’s complaints procedure.
Article date: 09 March 2021