Dorset County Council

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Annual letters

We write to councils each year to give a summary of the complaint statistics we record about them,
and their performance in responding to our investigations.

Annual letter archive

Public reports ?Find out more about public reports

In the last five years, the Ombudsman has published the following public interest reports against Dorset County Council

A boy with autism was left without proper education for two years by the former Dorset County Council after it failed to provide him with appropriate alternatives when it became clear mainstream school was not suitable for him.

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Public reports for Dorset County Council

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Service improvements ?Find out more about service improvements

Since April 2018, the Council has agreed to make the following improvements to its services following an investigation by the Ombudsman:

Case reference: 18 014 507

Category: Education

Sub Category: Special educational needs

  • The Council has agreed to share the Ombudsman’s final decision statement with the Director of Children’s Services for learning purposes.

Case reference: 18 011 892

Category: Education

Sub Category: School transport

  • The Council has agreed to review its standard refusal letters for transport to education applications, to ensure they clearly explain the appeals process and relevant timescales.
  • The Council has agreed to review the guidance pages on its website for transport to education applications, to ensure they clearly explain the appeals process and relevant timescales.

Case reference: 18 005 153

Category: Education

Sub Category: Special educational needs

  • In order to make sure no other parent is wrongly told the Council has no alternative education duty to children on a school roll, confirm to staff dealing with children out of school and children with SEN a correct understanding of the Council's duties under the Education Act 1996.

Case reference: 18 004 705

Category: Education

Sub Category: Special educational needs

  • Send all officers in the SEN Team a written brief detailing the learning points derived from this complaint. This brief should be sent with a copy of the Ombudsman's final decision statement and cover the following points: i. The importance of checking the email inboxes of those colleagues on long-term absence from work. I understand the SEN Team has recently implemented a system by adding substitutes to email accounts, therefore the brief should also highlight this. ii. The need to send an officer, be it a planning coordinator or otherwise, to all EHC plan annual review meetings when they are scheduled by the educational establishment. The SEN Team should always endeavour to do this as it is in the best interests of all those concerned. iii. The requirement to meet the timeframes stipulated in the SEN Code of Practice in relation to the annual review of EHC plans. iv. That parents and young people should be informed they can request a meeting with the Council to discuss proposed amendments to an EHC plan, using its template letter. v. The need to ensure that all relevant paperwork needed by the Post-16 SEN Panel when deciding a case is prepared before the hearing and made available to Panel members. I understand the SEN Team has recently implemented a new checklist system to ensure this happens, so this should be mentioned in the brief. vi. The importance of ensuring the views of parents and young people are heard at a Post-16 SEN Panel hearing, by inviting them to make comments and submit evidence before the hearing takes place. vii. That Post-16 SEN Panel hearings are properly documented and the associated paperwork is completed in full. In particular, the clerk or officer recording the hearing should note who sat on the Panel, whether anyone else attended, what was discussed, and what was decided, including the reasons why. viii. The need for all SEN officers to refer any stage one complaint escalation requests they receive to a senior manager for review.
  • If not already in place, ensure the SEN Team implements a system to track when annual review meetings are taking place, so that it can hasten educational establishments if they fail to submit the required paperwork following the meeting. For example, it could use a simple spread sheet to do this.

Case reference: 18 003 494

Category: Adult care services

Sub Category: Transition from childrens services

  • The Council has agreed to remind relevant staff to activate their email out-of-office autoreply function during periods of leave.

Case reference: 18 003 390

Category: Education

Sub Category: Alternative provision

  • To prevent some of the faults identified from reoccurring, the Council has also agreed to draft operating guidance for its In Year Fair Access Panels which: outlines their remit; states how the panels should be conducted and specifies what factors they should consider when deliberating an application; stipulates that detailed notes be taken; and highlights what action, if any, should be taken in response to a panel decision.

Case reference: 18 001 971

Category: Education

Sub Category: Special educational needs

  • The Council had already rearranged its SEN Team and now has monthly reviews/checks on progress and timescales on all Plans.

Case reference: 18 001 255

Category: Education

Sub Category: Special educational needs

  • Review how it arranges and monitors education for children with SEN and EHC Plans who are unable to attend school on medical grounds.
  • Review how it ensures the statutory timeframes for EHC Plans and reviews are adhered to.

Case reference: 18 000 867

Category: Transport and highways

Sub Category: Highway repair and maintenance

  • Review its complaints procedure, supporting literature, and staff’s knowledge of the procedure. The Council should either offer one stage and then refer to the Ombudsman, or keep its two stage procedure and only refer to the Ombudsman once that procedure is fully completed. The Council should consider amending its literature and providing training or a reminder to its staff on the correct process.

Case reference: 17 014 349

Category: Education

Sub Category: School admissions

  • The Council has agreed to make changes to its In Year Fair Access Policy to ensure that it describes the local circumstances whereby a school can refer an application to the IYFA Panel despite having places available.

Case reference: 17 011 449

Category: Adult care services

Sub Category: Assessment and care plan

  • Council proposed it will make several changes in practice to both the initial DFG screening process in particular case recording and the way duty work is prioritised. It hopes this will improve the responsiveness of the Occupational Therapy team and the information that Council gives out to customers.

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Service improvements agreed by Dorset County Council

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Last updated: 4 April 2015

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