Mum is paid compensation after blunder over son’s needs

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Coun

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

A young boy with special needs did not get the sort of education he needed for months because of a series of delays, mistakes and a lack of special school places in Norfolk.

A watchdog ordered Norfolk County Council to apologise and pay £5,000 to the boy and his mother, after delays in getting him the right sort of education.

The boy’s mother complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman over her battle to get her son specialist education.

The council was 23 weeks late in issuing an education, health and care plan for the boy, which meant he spent months not getting the specialist schooling he was entitled to.

The council agreed in December 2018 that the boy could attend a special school, but a place was not available until September 2019.

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And the ombudsman said the council had not done enough to ensure the boy had got proper support while he was in pre-school or when he left the pre-school.

There was a period when he was not attending the primary school in which he had been enrolled because his mother wanted to wait until he could start at the special school and not unsettle him for one term beforehand.

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The council was at fault for not ensuring he was getting specialist support at that time.

The ombudsman also found that, at one point, records of a meeting over the child had been destroyed by a council worker. The council had acknowledged that happened, but said it was because the officer believed the changes discussed had been incorporated into the final plan.

John Fisher, county council cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We apologise that this young boy did not receive an education, health and care plan in a timely manner and we did not take the required action to ensure that he was receiving the educational provision set out by the plan after it was issued.

“We fully accept the ombudsman’s findings and we have apologised and paid compensation. This youngster now has a full-time place at a special school and an up to date plan.”

The council has previously been criticised by the ombudsman over delays to care plans.Mr Fisher said the council had already made changes, was spending more to recruit staff and had a £120m transformation programme to provide more specialist education places.

He said: “We have already implemented learning from this case. We have improved our performance by: changing some of our administration processes both for meetings and in respect of confirming that alternative provision is fully in place; as well as boosting our spending on staffing to increase our capacity to complete assessments.

“Additionally we have agreed additional investment to build up to four new special schools in Norfolk to remedy the lack of special school places as part of our five-year £120m transformation programme for special educational needs and disabilities.

“High levels and continually rising demand for education, health and care plans and special school places is a national issue, the intense pressure of which is being experienced by local authorities across the country.”

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