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Wirral teen missed out on post-16 education because of council faults

Wirral MBC has been asked to pay a teenager more than £4,000 after it failed to put in place proper educational provision for him.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was asked to investigate by the teenager’s mother after the council took too long to review her son’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan. This left him without a place when he left his specialist school at the end of Year 12.

The teen has autism. He had initially been offered a place at a mainstream college with a package of support, but before the start of the September term the college withdrew its offer. The council looked at further options.

The teen’s mum told the council she would prefer a residential school. The council issued a final EHC plan in May the following year, but this plan still did not name a school for the teenager to attend.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the length of time it took the council to review the teenager’s plan was fault. It also criticised the council’s record keeping from that time. The investigation found the council did not meet the proper timescales and take decisions it should in reviewing the teenager’s EHC Plan. It therefore failed to identify he was out of education during the first national lockdown.

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

“Because of the faults I have identified, this teenager was left without an educational placement when he should have been starting the autumn term. The council did not follow the proper review process, so for a long time the boy’s mother was not even able to use her appeal rights to the tribunal to see if the situation could be improved.

“I’m pleased the council has accepted my findings, and hope the improvements it will now make will ensure other children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans are not affected in the same way.”

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 teenager £4,400 to reflect the poor practice the Ombudsman has identified. It will also pay the mother £250 to reflect her avoidable distress.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will complete its review of the annual EHC Plan review process, which is already underway, and arrange training with relevant officers.

Article date: 17 March 2022