William Eichler 03 December 2020

Council criticised after teenager misses start of school

Surrey County Council has agreed to review its services after a teenager missed the start of the school year because the local authority did not tell his mother she needed to reapply for transport.

The boy’s mum found out the contract for her son’s taxi was cancelled just a day before her son was due to return to his school’s sixth form, leaving her to pay £2,400 in fares until the support was reinstated.

The mother, who learnt of the cancellation from the taxi firm rather than the council, complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, arguing that it had been agreed in her son’s annual review of his Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan that his transport would continue.

She also said that she had not been told she needed to re-apply for the new school year when her son moved to post-16 education.

‘I welcome the proactive way the council has responded to remedying the complaint for the family, and its willingness to review how its services can be improved in future,’ said Ombudsman Michael King.

‘However, I have some concern that there may be others affected by what went wrong during the same period, so I have asked it to write to those families and invite them to make a retrospective application for transport, and reimburse them too where necessary.’

A statement from the council said: 'Surrey County Council has apologised to and reimbursed the family, and wholly accepts the recommendations of the Ombudsman.

'The council will pay a total of £2650 for reimbursement of costs, distress, uncertainty, time and trouble for the complainant in pursuing the complaint.

'A thorough review is now underway, with the council working closely with families, schools and transport providers to ensure the correct information is available in a timely fashion, and that incidents of this nature do not happen again in the future.'

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