William Eichler 28 April 2022

Council apologises after vulnerable boy goes 14 months without education

Council apologises after vulnerable boy goes 14 months without education  image
Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com.

Cambridgeshire County Council has apologised after a vulnerable boy was left without education for over a year.

The nine-year-old, who has complex Special Educational Needs including severe neuro-disabilities and speech and language delay, could not attend his school throughout the pandemic on the advice of his GP.

He has had no formal schooling since September 2020 and has only in the last month been provided with some education at home.

The council issued the boy’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan in 2016, and last amended it in 2018. It should have reviewed this annually but – according to an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman – it has failed to do so. This means the boy’s plan does not reflect his current needs and the support he requires to meet them.

Despite the Ombudsman finding the council at fault, the local authority at first refused to agree to any of the recommendations to put things right for the family.

‘The family tell me they have been ignored and misled by the council. Nobody from the council has checked on their son’s wellbeing, or their own, and its poor handling of their case continues to cause them significant distress,’ said Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

‘I am concerned that throughout my investigation the council has demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of its role in the SEND process and of its legal obligations and duties towards children in the county.

‘Additionally, the council’s poor response to my investigation is also a major concern. It is an issue highlighted in my recent report about complaints handling during the pandemic, where we saw some councils abandoning high-quality complaint handling.’

The council has now apologised and will pay £8,000 in compensation to the family.

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire County Council said: ‘We understand and accept the judgement, and our Chief Executive Stephen Moir has made a personal apology to the family. We know we could and should have done better. The compensation suggested by the Local Government Ombudsman is being made.

‘There is much more that needs to be done to support children with special educational needs and disabilities in Cambridgeshire, which is why it has been made a priority by our Joint Administration.

‘A full plan looking at our progress in addressing the actions identified by the Ombudsman in this case will be discussed by the Children’s and Young People’s Committee in July.’

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