Central Bedfordshire Council failed to properly deal with adult's special educational needs says ombudsman

Ombudsman says the family 'were caused avoidable distress and frustration'

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 9:17 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 2:38 pm
Central Bedfordshire Council's Chicksands offices

Central Bedfordshire Council has apologised after the local government ombudsman ruled it failed to deal properly with an adult's special educational needs provision.

The local authority was found to be at fault by the investigation and has been given six weeks to pay £500 compensation to a parent, on top of £500 the council already promised her.

And the parent will receive a further £2,700 from the council on her son's behalf for her "to use to his educational advantage".

The ombudsman's report said: "The complainant alleged that Central Bedfordshire Council failed to deal properly with her adult son’s special educational needs.

"The council has accepted there were faults and avoidable delay in its management of the case.

"We've recommended actions to resolve the injustice caused, which the local authority has accepted."

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"Her right of appeal to the special educational needs and disability (SEND) tribunal was delayed, her son wasn't provided with appropriate education, and the family were caused avoidable distress and frustration," according to the ombudsman's report.

Her son "has a diagnosis of autism (ASD), has profound learning and communication difficulties and has epileptic seizures without warning," said the report.

The council has considered Ms X’s complaints and has upheld many of them. The assistant director of children's services sent the council’s final response on August 7th 2020, which acknowledged:

* The council failed to send notification of its decision to amend his EHCP within four weeks of the annual review of 2019;

* delayed in confirming the panel’s decision not to allow a personal budget;

* failed to recognize Ms X’s emails of 2019 to the director as complaints;

* failed to reply to her email of April 2020;

* and delayed in issuing a final amended EHCP.

"The council considered it should have issued a final EHCP by July 2019 and its fault here had delayed her right of appeal to the SEND tribunal," explained the report.

"The council offered Ms X £500 for her avoidable distress and frustration. It explained there are now new staff and an improved computer system which should prevent a reoccurrence of the faults she experienced.

"The council concluded that the special educational provision was available to her son during 2019/20 given he had a place at agency Z.

"Central Bedfordshire Council also agreed to look at the way it deals with email correspondence to the directorate, so that, if these were complaints, they would be recognised as such and dealt with in accordance with the council's complaints procedure.

"It's to the council’s credit it has recognised faults in its annual review process," added the ombudsman.

"Had she received the final amended EHCP sooner in 2019, I'm satisfied that she would have exercised her right of appeal.

"This is because she had withdrawn her son from the placement at agency Z and she disagreed with the council about its suitability.

"She would have asked then for a funded educational programme for him at home, as she now has done."

The compensation is "for his lost opportunities to have his educational placement determined by the SEND tribunal sooner and to take advantage of what it decided".

A council spokesperson said: “We're extremely sorry for the poor service we gave this young person and his family.

"The council accepts all the findings and has begun actioning the ombudsman’s recommendations already, including reviewing all outstanding cases and implementing new alternative education procedures and policies.

"We apologise unreservedly to the family for the standard of service we provided and the impact it has had on them.”