Autistic boy missed GCSEs due to Central Beds Council failings says ombudsman

Central Beds CouncilCentral Beds Council
Central Beds Council
CBC to pay nearly £3,500 to mum over failings to ensure her autistic son received suitable education

A local authority has apologised to a Bedfordshire resident and is paying her nearly £3,500 after failing to ensure her autistic son received suitable education over a nine-month period.

Central Bedfordshire Council had made some payments already before the local government and social care ombudsman asked for extra financial compensation.

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The local authority was at fault over the mother’s complaint after her son was denied his education from October 2021 and June 2022, according to the ombudsman.

It failed to ensure her son received suitable alternative provision while out of school, and she was unhappy with the remedy offered, said the ombudsman.

“He was off school for health reasons and received no education in a crucial year, which meant he was unable to take his GCSE exams this year.

“There were ongoing issues with attendance at his school for several years. His mental health deteriorated in October 2021 and he’s not been in school full-time since.

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“His mother argued the council failed to have robust procedures in place for the school to alert it to a child missing education.

“She was unhappy CBC was unaware of his non-attendance until January 2022 because it claimed the school failed to alert officers. The council first became aware of his non-attendance through the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).

“It was involved because the school was going to make a request for an education, health and care plan (EHCP).”

CAMHS recommended a specialist placement for him, explained the ombudsman. “The school told CBC it was working with his mother to get a local authority medical needs education team (MNET) to supply a tutor for her son.

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“CAMHS agreed to call an urgent professionals meeting, but he wasn’t known to CBC’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) team at this stage because he lacked an EHCP.

“The mother claims the school failed to put in the tuition it agreed or do another medical needs referral it also agreed.

“She made a formal complaint explaining her son was too unwell to attend school and was undergoing an EHCP needs assessment.

“After a further complaint the following month, CBC agreed to do an EHCP needs assessment and fund ten hours a week tuition for English and Maths until completion.”

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The council offered and paid her £100 for the avoidable distress caused and £1,400 for missed education from October 2021 to June 2022.

“I found fault on this complaint,” added the ombudsman. “I’m satisfied this caused her son an avoidable injustice.

“Had there been better coordination, communication and monitoring of his case, CBC might have identified earlier the school failed to make a referral to its team.

“The council would have realised sooner he wasn’t receiving appropriate education. This is fault. This failure caused an injustice and distress.

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“CBC agreed to send the mother a written apology for its failures to have adequate arrangements with the school over his absences and to make suitable educational provision for him.

“The council will pay her a further £1,800 for the avoidable distress caused over his education and £150 more for distress caused by the fault found.”