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Apologies over a review into schoolboy's special needs

Apologies over a review into schoolboy's special needs

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 12:21pm 21st May 2018.

By Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Cornwall Council has been ordered to apologise and pay compensation to the mother of a schoolboy over faults in how his special needs were reviewed.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) upheld the complaint from the mother saying the council had caused injustice.

To resolve the complaint the council has agreed to apologise to the mother and pay £1,000 in compensation to “acknowledge the distress and frustration caused by severe delay”.

The council has also agreed to review its procedures for Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans and ensure action is taken when there are significant delays.

A report on the case published on the LGO website states that the boy’s mother, identified as Ms D, had made a complaint about the transfer of a statement into an EHC plan, delay in completing an annual review of an EHC plan and delay in amending the EHC plan.

Ms D’s son, identified as G, has SEN – social, communication and learning difficulties associated with autistic spectrum disorder.

The council had arranged his education under a statement of SEN since he was four and he had attended a mainstream primary school. He was due to transfer to secondary school in September 2015.

Ahead of his move to secondary school the council told Ms D that it would transfer her son’s SEN to an EHC plan.

A few weeks after G started at secondary school his mother wrote to the council to say she was not happy with the school’s understanding of the EHC plan and she had lost confidence in the SEN officer who had drawn up the EHC plan.

In November 2015 she raised concerns about “gaps and inaccuracies” in a report from the school for G’s annual review. She also said there were gaps in the EHC plan.

There were further complaints about the annual review which was held with council officers and school staff and also that records of meetings were inaccurate.

Ms D was concerned that the transfer had not been done properly and that the EHC plan had not been implemented fully by the school.

She withdrew her son from the school in January 2016 as she “was concerned G’s physical and mental health would deteriorate if G were to continue attending”.

Ms D arranged for further examinations for G by health professionals and, although attempts were made to get him back into the school, she did not have confidence that his needs would be met.

In May 2016 she sent a formal complaint to the council about the transfer and the EHC needs assessment along with complaints about how the school had handled the EHC plan.

The council responded saying that the process had not been as “robust” as the code of practice envisaged.

G returned to the school in June 2016 and in August Ms D contacted the council’s chief executive and asked that her complaint be investigated at stage 2.

She continued to seek assessment and help for her son and he was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome in September 2016.

G continued to attend school in 2016 and 2017 but Ms D continued to express dissatisfaction with the education her son was receiving.

An annual review was carried out in January 2017 when the council said the EHC plan needed to be amended and in May 2017 the council agreed to carry out a reassessment with a view to creating a new plan. The LGO said Ms D was still awaiting the council to finalise the new plan.

G was moved to a specialist school in September 2017. The report states: “Ms D says G is making good progress in the school and is on a full-time timetable.”

The LGO said there had been fault in the way the council transferred the statement into an EHC plan. It also said that the council had missed out statutory requirements in the drawing up of the plan.

It also said there had been “significant delay” in completing the annual review of G’s EHC plan. It added that there was a “severe delay” in issuing the final amended EHC plan.

The report states: “The consequence of delay in finalising a proposed amended EHC Plan was a period of prolonged suspense and uncertainty for Ms D as to the council’s final view on G’s SEN, appropriate provision and education setting.”

The LGO also said the council had failed to investigate Ms D’s complaint.

In its conclusions the report states: “Ms D is left with uncertainty that, if the council had acted without fault, education outcomes for G in his first two years of secondary education would have been better and G would have started attending a school in line with parental preference and his SEN significantly earlier than September 2017.”

A spokesperson for Cornwall Council told Pirate FM: "Cornwall Council apologises for the delays experienced by the family in this case. We've continued to work with the family and we've put lots of improvements in place.

"Since September 2016, we have completed 95% of assessments within 20 weeks. Overall, 84% of education health and care plans have been issued within 20 weeks. This compares favourably to the England average of just under 60%.

"Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said in July 2017 that we were managing the process well and we have now converted all statements of special educational needs to meet the March 2018 deadline.

"The changes we've made since what happened in 2015 mean our focus is on working with a range of agencies and professionals to tailor plans to individuals, which deliver better outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and means there are very few appeals or mediation needed."

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