Special needs girl was let down by council

The local government and social care ombudsman has upheld a complaint against Norfolk County Council

The local government and social care ombudsman has upheld a complaint against Norfolk County Council from the father of a girl with special educational needs about how her educational support was handled. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Another child with special educational needs has been let down by Norfolk County Council, investigators have ruled.

The local government and social care ombudsman ruled that the council had failed in its support for a girl with anxiety, who spent two months out of education.

It found fault in how the authority responded to requests for help from the girl's school after it said it could not provide the specialist care set out in her education, health and care plan (EHCP) and even called for an emergency review of the plan.

The ombudsman's report said: "The council has commented that it expects the school to continue to meet the need and put the provision specified in the EHCP in place until a suitable placement is found even once they have told the council they cannot meet the need. This is not acceptable. The duty is on the council to secure the provision is made."

Norfolk County Council said it was making improvements to its EHCP processes and bringing in more staff alongside a £120m investment in special needs education.

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The ombudsman ruled in May that the council must apologise to the family and pay them £900, including £300 to reimburse them for private tuition arranged while their daughter was not in school.

It was the latest complaint upheld by the ombudsman against the council in relation to its provision for children with special educational needs, following 11 upheld cases in 2017 and 2018.

The report of the ombudsman's investigation said the girl had an EHCP in July 2017 which named her school as the provider.

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In the autumn term of 2017, while the girl's attendance was low, the school asked Norfolk County Council for funding for support from a specialist college.

At a review in March 2018 the council agreed that support from the college would be provided over the summer term. Her father wanted the college's provision to be formalised in the EHCP, but when a revised plan was issued by the council in June this had not happened.

The father lodged an appeal against the decision, after which the council agreed to name the college on the plan.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, apologised.

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. We have fully accepted the findings of the ombudsman and have apologised and paid compensation to the family."

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