Hampshire County Council has agreed to review the resources it has put into its Special Educational Needs (SEN) team, following a complaint to the local government and social care ombudsman.
The director of children’s services and lead member for children’s services will now carry out a review of whether the resourcing is sufficient to carry out its workload within statutory timescales and confirm they have reviewed details of the council’s SEN recovery plan following the ombudsman’s investigation.
The recommendations were made after a mother complained to the ombudsman her son had missed out on three months of education and special educational needs support, because the county council delayed issuing his amended Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan.
The mother said her son, who has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), had been attending mainstream primary school with 25 hours a week of one-to-one support.
When it became apparent the boy could no longer attend, the council did not act quickly enough to put in place alternative education. This meant he had three months of inadequate SEN provision followed by three months of missed education.
The ombudsman’s investigation found the council delayed the statutory process at times, and wrongly told the mother the EHC Plan could be issued more quickly if she withdrew her comments.
The ombudsman also found the council did not do enough to provide alternative education for the boy while it waited for a place to become available at a suitable school.
The mother lost chances to appeal the council’s actions at the SEND tribunal because the council did not tell her of her right. It also did not name the type of school in the boy’s EHC Plan when it did issue the document.
Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said: ‘This case, and three others I have recently issued about services for children with SEND in the county, highlight the significant impact delays can have on families when councils do not complete their duties within the statutory timescales.
‘I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations in this case and hope the review of services it has agreed to make will ensure children with SEN in Hampshire are better served in future.’
The council has agreed to apologise and pay the mother £100 for her lost opportunity to appeal the council’s decision to keep the original EHC Plan in place.
It will also pay her £200 for the lost opportunity to appeal the provision made for her son in an amended EHC Plan and for her time and trouble caused by the delay.
The council has also agreed to pay the family £200 for each school month of inadequate SEN provision for the benefit of the boy’s education, and £550 for each school month of education the boy missed.
This totals £2,250 for the lost provision. The council will also pay the mother a further £750 for the time and trouble of trying to get the council to fulfil its statutory duties and the distress and uncertainty caused.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case, it will reflect on the service improvements it agreed to make following three other complaints to the ombudsman about its provision of SEN services, in particular delays with annual reviews and amendment of EHC Plans.
It should also remind officers of statutory guidance and update the Ombudsman on the number of outstanding EHC assessments, annual reviews and draft amended plans and the timetable for finalising this work.
A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: ‘We always try to do our level best to get things right first time for Hampshire residents, and we take all complaints very seriously.
‘Where we haven’t been able to resolve things directly with the member of the public, we work closely with the Ombudsman to resolve any issues raised and improve our services along the way.
‘In this case, we have complied with all the recommendations set out in the Ombudsman’s report, including issuing a formal apology to the parent and making a payment of £3,300 in compensation.
‘We have also made improvements to our special educational needs and disability service processes and practices to ensure that, going forward, agreed changes to Educational, Health and Care Plans are made promptly, so that the final Plan is issued as quickly as possible, and within the statutory deadlines.’
Photo Credit – NeONBRAND