Mark Whitehead 23 May 2019

Council criticised for ‘serious delays’ in completing SEND plans

Hackney Council has been criticised by the ombudsman over serious delays when completing plans for children with Special Educational Needs.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman identified faults in the council’s handling of two cases.

Michael King said the process should normally take no longer than 20 weeks but in the first case it took more than a year to compete a plan for a boy with autism and in the second, a young boy with Down’s syndrome, there was a 48-week delay.

In both cases the boys’ families had to make 'significant efforts to ensure the council provides the services they are entitled to'.

Mr King has recommended the council consider other families’ complaints where there have been delays.

He said: 'Some families have to go well beyond the call of duty to confirm the type of support their children should receive and I’m sorry to say this has happened in both these cases and in others we are investigating.

'We issued a special report about the problems faced by parents battling the SEN system in 2017. At the time, we said when councils get things wrong it places a disproportionate burden on families already struggling with caring and support.

'I now encourage the council to accept the recommendations in my report to review its services and provide reassurance to families across Hackney their cases will be dealt with swiftly and in accordance with law and guidance.’

Cllr Chris Kennedy, cabinet member for families, early years and play, said: ‘Our staff work very hard to ensure the right support is in place for young people with SEND, and the wellbeing of young people is at the heart of everything our SEND team does.

‘They do this amidst unprecedented workloads, in a sector that is under ever-increasing financial pressure. These were complex cases, and some things did not happen in the time frame they should and we apologise to the families involved for these issues.

‘However, although we believe we have followed DfE guidance and that our practices are no different to those of most other local authorities, some of the conclusions in the reports raise significant issues which we will be discussing urgently with the Department for Education.’

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