Suffolk to apologise to family for failing to educate girl for 18 months

Suffolk County Council has not done enough to provide an education to a young girl with special educational needs, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council failed to provide alternative education to the girl, who has autism, between March 2022 and September 2023 after she could no longer attend school.

The investigation found the mother had made numerous requests for the council to provide an educational package for her daughter that would allow her to study away from school, but adequate provision was still not put in place.

The council took 18 months to produce an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan for the girl, instead of taking the 20 weeks guidance and legislation says it should take.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Ms Amerdeep Somal said:

“The mother here did all she could to get the council to do what they should. Even then, her daughter missed out on 18 months of education at a crucial time in her life because the council did not prioritise her needs.

“Despite the mother’s repeated contact with the council, no education was forthcoming and instead the council took far too long to produce a vital Education, Health and Care Plan for the girl which would identify the support that would be provided for her.

“We have made numerous recommendations to improve the council’s services for children with Special Educational Needs in recent years. The council is currently under the scrutiny and intervention of Ofsted and has identified improvements which it is already implementing, so we have not made any further recommendations beyond those to remedy the family’s situation.

“The issues at Suffolk have been recognised, both by the council itself and by Ofsted, and there is much local improvement to be carried out, However, the wider national systemic problems with special educational needs and disabilities provision cannot be ignored: as we have repeatedly highlighted there are significant problems across the country requiring national attention and policy change to ensure children are supported during the most crucial stage of their lives.

“Obviously any future investigations we carry out into the council’s education services will provide important evidence as to whether the council’s efforts to improve have been effective.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares 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 £8,000 for the delays in the EHC Plan process and failure to provide alternative education. It will also pay the mother a further £300 to acknowledge the distress and anxiety she felt when dealing with the council.

Article date: 25 April 2024

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