Investigation reveals 170 delayed children’s services complaints in Kent

A Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) investigation has uncovered a backlog of 170 unanswered children’s services and education complaints in Kent.

The Ombudsman was asked to investigate after Kent County Council failed to respond to a mother’s complaint that her son had not been provided with speech and language therapy, as set out in his Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan, for more than 13 months.

boy holding brown leaf covering his face

When the Ombudsman asked the council for further evidence about its complaints process, it confirmed it had 141 overdue Special Educational Needs (SEND) stage one complaints. It also had a further 29 overdue SEND stage two complaints.

The council reported the average response time for stage one complaints was 43 working days and 51 working days for stage two. Both far exceed the 20-day timescale set out in the council’s policy.

Ombudsman Paul Najsarek said: ‘Kent County Council has explained to me that its delays in dealing with complaints are due to low staffing levels and high workloads, but this cannot excuse the council from performing its duty to these parents.

‘With such systemic issues in responding to complaints, I am concerned that there is a potential for significant ongoing injustice to many of the county’s children until the council gets on top of this backlog.

‘Therefore, I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations not only to improve its complaints handling but also its Education, Health and Care Plan process to ensure other children in the county are not put to a disadvantage.’

The council agreed to apologise to the mother and her child and pay them a combined £1,800 for their time and trouble, frustration and distress and lack of therapy provided to the child for 13 months.

It will also pay £100 a month for every month the therapy was not set up from January 2023 until the it is in place, to be used for the child’s benefit.

The council further agreed to write to each of the 170 people it has identified, to apologise for its delay responding to their stage one and two complaints, and to review its EHC Plan procedures to ensure statutory timescales are met and that it communicates with parents appropriately throughout.

It will also develop an action plan to show how it intends to address ongoing delays with EHC Plan annual reviews and complaints about them.

Image: Annie Spratt


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