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Boy misses out on a year with his peers because of council failures

A Derbyshire boy had to stay in primary school for an extra year because the county council did not update his Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan in a timely manner.

The council has agreed to apologise to the boy and his mother, and pay them £1,000, after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found its errors caused the boy to miss out on being educated with his peer group for a school year.

The boy, who has physical and mental health conditions, had been due to leave primary school in 2019.  However, the council did not update his EHC Plan, including naming a school for him to attend, in time for his move to secondary school.

Instead, the boy had to stay at his primary school and receive the Year 7 curriculum via one-to-one tutors. He finally changed schools at the start of Year 8 in September 2020.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found a number of problems with the way the council handled both updating the boy’s EHC plan, and the way it investigated his mother’s complaints.

The Ombudsman found the council failed to name a school in his EHC Plan, despite being instructed to by its own panel meeting. It also took 13 weeks longer than the law allows to issue a decision letter, and 56 weeks instead of the usual eight weeks to issue the boy’s final EHC Plan. These faults were compounded by their timing at a critical point in the boy’s education: final EHC Plans should have been issued by 15 February in the year the boy was due to move on to the next school stage. The boy’s final amended plan was not issued till 15 July – 21 weeks after the deadline.

The Ombudsman has also criticised the council’s handling of the mother’s complaint, which was beset by delays at the first stage. The council’s own investigation of the mother’s complaint also failed to identify the full extent of where it had gone wrong.

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

“It is vitally important councils get things right when dealing with children’s Education, Health and Care Plans, particularly at crucial transitional times in their school life.

“Although the boy did not miss out on any education because of the council’s errors, he did miss out on vital social interaction with children his own age, which will have had a knock-on effect on entering his new school in Year 8, where children will have already formed friendship groups.

“I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope the learning from this case will be used to improve its services for other children with Education, Health and Care Plans.”

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 and pay the mother £1,000 for the distress caused.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review its processes to ensure it is carrying out annual reviews, issuing decision notices and finalising amended Education, Health and Care Plans in line with the statutory guidelines.

Article date: 13 May 2021

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