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Council rapped for second time in four weeks over education failings

The local government and social care ombudsman has found failings in Norfolk County Council's handling of another case involving a child with special educational needs. Picture: Archant

The local government and social care ombudsman has found failings in Norfolk County Council's handling of another case involving a child with special educational needs. Picture: Archant

Archant

A watchdog has ordered a council to compensate another parent for failings in its support for a child with special educational needs.

The local government and social care ombudsman ruled that Norfolk County Council was at fault in its handling of the case of a girl with speech, language and sensory problems and in the way it handled her mother's complaint.

The council said it had apologised to the family for the delays and the impact it had on securing the girl's provision.

The girl, referred to as Y, was six when her education, health and care plan (EHCP) was issued in November 2016.

It specified that her teachers and teaching assistants would deliver most of her provision while a provider commissioned by her mother, referred to as Mrs X, would give sensory attachment and therapeutic support.

A process to review and amend the EHCP began in June 2017, but unclear advice and delays from the council meant a final revised plan was not issued until September 2018.

Administrative errors meant this plan was unenforceable, leading Mrs X to request that the council reimburse the £250 she had paid for it to be independently reviewed.

The ombudsman concluded the council was at fault for the way it handled the annual review process and Mrs X's request for a personal budget for Y's speech and language and sensory needs, for not giving clear advice about these processes, for the delayed response to her request for a section 17 assessment (designed for children with complex needs) and for the way it handled her complaint.

The council agreed to offer to pay her £500 for the distress its actions caused, as well as reiterating an offer to pay her £200 "for the time and trouble she has incurred". It also agreed to finalise a training and induction programme relating to EHCPs within three months.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, said the council had recently doubled the size of its EHCP team and reiterated its ongoing £120m investment in SEND provision.

"Our work to improve services is starting to make a difference. For example, we have reduced the time assessments are taking and increased our quality checks for assessments and support," he said.

"We are very sorry that there were delays for this child and the impact this had on securing full time special educational needs provision."

It was the ombudsman's second ruling to be published against the council in four weeks after it was ordered to compensate the family of a girl with anxiety for failings in her support.

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