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Council slammed over failure to tell mum plans for son

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. The local government and social care ombudsman has issued another ruling against the council over SEND provision. Picture: Archant

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. The local government and social care ombudsman has issued another ruling against the council over SEND provision. Picture: Archant

Archant

A council which failed to issue an education plan for an autistic boy and did not inform his mother has been criticised by watchdogs.

The local government and social care ombudsman issued a ruling against Norfolk County Council for failings in the administration of an education, health and care plan (EHCP) for the boy.

It is one of more than a dozen rulings made against the council in the past two years in cases involving children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The council said it had apologised and paid compensation to the family.

The boy, referred to as C in the ombudsman's report, was three when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and learning difficulties in October 2017.

In February 2018 his mother, "Mrs B", asked Norfolk County Council to complete an education, health and care needs assessment for her son.

In April 2018 the council decided it would not complete an EHCP for C - but did not tell Mrs B about its decision.

She did not find out until July, after contacting the authority to find out who her son's SEN coordinator was.

Mrs B complained to the council, which upheld her complaint, apologised to her and overturned its original decision.

C's EHCP was finally issued in January 2019, 11 months after his mother's initial request and six months after it should have been issued according to the government's 20-week target timescale.

The council blamed the hold-up on delays in providing a report from its education psychology and specialist support service.

The ombudsman said that, as C did not have an EHCP for his first four months in primary school, he was only able to attend part-time, did not receive the specialist support he needed and had become "frustrated and unsettled".

Norfolk County Council agreed to pay Mrs B £250 for the distress caused to her and a further £1,325 for C's lost SEN provision.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: "We are very sorry there were delays for this child and the impact this had on securing full time special educational needs provision."

He added that the council was investing £120m in SEND provision and had recently doubled the size of its EHCP assessment team.

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