Fine for Central Beds Council after special needs plan delay caused 'injustice' to pupil

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But the council wasn’t found at fault over its special educational provision

A local authority watchdog has fined Central Bedfordshire Council £250 over delays in providing an amended education health and care plan (EHCP) for a special needs pupil.

A mother, referred to as Mrs X, complained this impacted on her son’s education and mental health, affected the wider family, and caused her stress, according to a local government and social care ombudsman’s report.

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“It also meant she had to leave her job to get her son support,” said the report. The ombudsman found the council at fault for the delay, which caused injustice.

CBC headquarters, Chicksands.CBC headquarters, Chicksands.
CBC headquarters, Chicksands.

“CBC has agreed to make a payment to Mrs X to reflect this. We don’t find the council at fault regarding special educational provision.”

To update an EHCP, a council must send the parent a notice detailing the proposed amendments, with the parent given at least 15 days to comment, explained the report.

“After this, a council must issue an amended EHCP as quickly as possible, and within eight weeks of the amendment notice. CBC issued the EHCP in December 2019. It was reviewed in September 2020.

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“Mrs X asked the council to change her son’s educational provision from mainstream schooling to a special residential placement.

“The local authority said it would commission an assessment by an educational psychologist and put in place alternative provision to support him.

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“In October, CBC told Mrs X it would make amendments to the EHCP, before agreeing to the change in November. It began contacting relevant schools to find him a place.

“The first draft amended EHCP was issued in December. The council issued three further drafts in April and May, with the final amended one at the end of May.

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“CBC told Mrs X it would look into a package of education otherwise than at school for her son,” added the report.

“He was offered a place at an alternative educational setting which catered for children with special educational needs, but she declined this fearing the impact on her son.

“She complained to the council and later the ombudsman. CBC agreed it had failed to issued his final amended EHCP within the statutory time and apologised for the distress and worry the delay caused.

“CBC said it provided substantial extra support to the school to support him and the mentoring had been successful, but he wasn’t accessing the alternative therapeutic provision put in place.

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“The council recognised it had taken a long time to identify a specialist residential school for him. CBC accepts some elements of his EHCP couldn’t be delivered, such as being in a classroom environment with his peers.

“I find the council made the special educational provision available and wasn’t at fault on this. I don’t find fault with CBC over the EHCP provision of September 2020, as parts of the 2019 plan were no longer relevant.

“The final amended EHCP should have been issued in December 2020. This is fault, which caused Mrs X injustice because it denied her a right to appeal the EHCP. CBC will make a £250 payment to Mrs X within four weeks.”