Central Bedfordshire Council fined by ombudsman for delays with child's special needs education, health and care plan

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The council has to pay £2,600 to the boy's father within a month

A delay in finding a suitable school for an excluded special needs child has resulted in Central Bedfordshire Council being fined £2,600 by the local government and social care ombudsman.

The local authority has to pay the sum to the boy's father, referred to as Mr X, within a month of the decision.

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Mr X complained about the situation that his son "wasn't receiving suitable full-time education". The ombudsman investigated the complaint from March 2020 until September 2021.

Central Beds Council Chicksands HQCentral Beds Council Chicksands HQ
Central Beds Council Chicksands HQ

"The boy had an EHCP and was permanently excluded from primary school in March 2020," according to the ombudsman's report.

"He remained on roll at his school until the exclusion was final in October 2020," it said. "This exclusion was subsequently ruled to be unlawful by a special educational needs and disability (SEND) tribunal.

"CBC enrolled the boy at another academy within six days of the exclusion, an alternative provision, which provided online tuition because of Covid-19.

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"His attendance to the online provision from March to July 2020 was 36 per cent. He attended on site on six days for three hours.

"Incidents there meant he was provided with online education until the council found a more appropriate provision."

"CBC began reassessing his needs in August 2020. The SEND code of practice says after a reassessment, the council should decide whether to issue an EHCP within ten weeks and finalise this plan within 14 weeks.

"CBC said time taken getting an educational psychology report meant there was a 41-day delay in issuing the draft EHCP. There was a delay of 83 days to issue the final plan, which named a school type.

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"The council said the previous EHCP remained in place during this period and the boy had access to the alternative provision. Its view is the delay didn't cause him to miss any educational provision.

"The draft EHCP was sent to Mr X in December 2020," added the report. "This draft plan didn't identify a type or name a school. The council consulted with six schools, five of which said they couldn't meet need and one was full.

"Notes of a Team around the Family (TAF) meeting from January 2021 said the boy was settled and enjoying his work, but it was a temporary measure.

"The minutes record his parents were happy with the home learning, but wanted a provision found for him that met his needs.

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"CBC sent a final EHCP in February 2021. This named specialist school as the educational placement. A final plan of August 2021 named a specific independent specialist school where he started in September 2021."

It took over a year from his exclusion for CBC to alter the EHCP to include a specialist school, said the ombudsman. "During this time, his education was disrupted and so I can understand Mr X’s concerns.

"But the boy did have some alternative provision available to him during this time and I can see that CBC was actively seeking a suitable placement for him.

"My view is there is evidence of delay by the council. This was fault. It took from March to August 2020 for CBC to begin the reassessment process.

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"There was a delay of three months issuing the final EHCP and a further six months to identify a suitable specialist school.

"I recognise the impact the delays had on Mr X and his family, as he was uncertain his son had a full-time school placement until a month before the new school year.

"I consider he's due a remedy for the impact on him and his son while the boy wasn't provided with all the provisions in his EHCP."