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Ombudsman warns councils on timescales for Education, Health and Care plans

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised Cornwall Council for the way it carried out the transfer of a boy’s Statement of Special Educational Needs (Statement) to an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

The LGO also highlighted the ‘significant delay’ which occurred when completing the annual review of the boy’s plan and the severe delay in issuing the final amended EHC plan.

The Ombudsman, which has previously revealed it was upholding eight in 10 complaints it investigates about EHC plans, said councils should avoid unnecessary delays when creating these plans for children.

In this particular case, a mother complained that Cornwall took too long to produce and amend an EHC plan for her son when he transferred from primary to mainstream secondary school. This resulted in the boy’s mother homeschooling her son, as the school had not put in place the support he needed, and postponed her appeal right to tribunal.

Cornwall has agreed to:

  • apologise to the mother
  • pay her £1,000 to acknowledge the distress and frustration caused by severe delay completing the Annual Review and amending an EHC plan
  • review how it audits compliance with timeframes for EHC plan processes; and
  • ensure appropriate action is taken on casework where there is significant overrun of statutory timeframes.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Significant delay was one of the key issues in last year’s focus report and this is a prime example of the effect this can have on families when lengthy delays occur.

“Transfers from Statements to EHC plans must be carried out in a timely manner, and in line with Statutory Guidance. Councils should adhere to statutory timeframes for EHC plan processes.

“I’m pleased Cornwall Council has agreed to my recommendations, and hope the changes it will now make will ensure such significant delays are avoided in future.”

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