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Council to pay £8k+ after Ombudsman investigation into how autistic girl missed out on 18 months of education

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has recommended a local authority pay more than £8,000 after a girl with autism missed out on around 18 months of special education support because of council delays.

The LGO said the girl had been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder in 2015 and was experiencing increasing anxiety, which eventually led to her refusing to go to her mainstream school.

Derby City Council started an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment in January 2017. The final EHC plan was issued in April 2018.

The mother complained to the council about the time it took to complete the EHC Plan, and then to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council took too long to issue the final EHC Plan, and also took too long to start consulting with schools about a place for the girl or identify a suitable placement.

The LGO also criticised Derby for not providing sufficient alternative education for the girl while she was out of formal education.

The council has agreed to:

  • pay the daughter £7,200 for being out of education and without any special educational provision for about 18 months;
  • pay the mother £500 for her distress and a further £675 for the cost of an occupational therapy report; and
  • arrange staff training for all staff involved in special educational needs.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: "Because of the council’s delays this girl was out of education for five and a half terms – time that will be difficult for her to claw back.

“I am concerned the council has argued its duty to make alternative provision did not arise until it had completed an EHC needs assessment, when in fact guidance states that it should have been in place from the sixth day of her absence."

King added: “I hope the training the council has agreed to complete with all staff dealing with special educational needs provision will help ensure the correct procedures are widely recognised and such significant errors are not repeated in future.”

A spokesperson for Derby City Council said: "We accept the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in this case, and have apologised to the family. We’re already working to implement the recommendations set out by the Ombudsman, who have confirmed they are satisfied that our actions are an appropriate remedy for the complaint. The Ombudsman report will also be considered by Council Cabinet at its meeting on 12th February 2020 and by Full Council later that month.

"Derby City Council is committed to continually reviewing and improving its services in order to best provide for the people of Derby. As part of this commitment, we’ve recently updated policies and practices in relation to Children Missing Education (October 2018) and the Council's Complaints Process (April 2019)."