A council will pay a family more than £5,000 in compensation after an ombudsman found that a secondary school child with special educational needs had 'gone without education altogether'.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman carried out the review after a complaint made by 'Ms X' in May 2023 that the council were failing to properly review her child's Education, Health and Care plan or ensure they received a suitable education and support for their special educational needs.

Following an investigation, the ombudsman found there was a fault by Suffolk County Council which meant D did not receive suitable education or support, and caused avoidable distress to both D and Ms X, as well as loss of opportunity for D.

Amongst several faults identified, the investigator found that when Ms X and D moved to the area, the council did not tell them within six weeks when it would review the care plan, or whether it would carry out a needs assessment. 

It was also found that the council should have completed a review within three months but did not have a meeting until almost 20 months after the transfer. 

The council placed D at 'Organisation F' in early-2022, as an interim measure until it could find a suitable permanent placement, but the ombudsman found there was "no evidence this was suitable for D’s age, ability, aptitude, and SEN".

The report reads: "I therefore consider D to have gone without education altogether." 

The council agreed to apologise, as well as re-assess D’s Education, Health, and Care needs, and pay the family a total of £5,100, £3,600 of which recognised the education and SEN support D missed, £1,000 for the distress caused to D and £500 for the distress caused to Ms X.

It will also review relevant procedures, issue reminders to staff, and ensure the ombudsman findings are considered as part of its SEND Improvement Strategy.

Another recent ombudsman review saw Suffolk County Council pay another family, 'Mrs X' and her child 'C', after faults with their Education, Health and Care plan. 

The ombudsman report states that the council began a review of C's plan in November 2022.

The council should have decided within four weeks whether it would maintain, amend or discontinue the plan, but told Mrs X of the amendments in February 2023, making the notice late.

The council also made 'small amendments' to the wording between the draft and final copy, without Mrs X having opportunity to comment, which was identified as a fault.

The report states that Mrs X first raised concerns that C was not receiving her  provision in February 2022, and then again from October until the end of the school term in 2023.

The inspector said: "The council should have done more to look into the concerns and ensure the school was providing C’s EHC provision."

Following the investigation, the council will apologise to Mrs X and C, as well as pay Mrs X a total of £500. 

Within two months of the final decision the council will carry out an audit of the EHC provision C is receiving and provide evidence to the ombudsman.

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Andrew Reid, cabinet member for Education and SEND at Suffolk County CouncilCllr Andrew Reid, cabinet member for Education and SEND at Suffolk County Council (Image: Suffolk County Council)

Cllr Andrew Reid, cabinet member for Education and SEND at Suffolk County Council, said: "We recognise that the timeliness of EHCPs has not been good enough. Improving how we manage assessments, reports and reviews is an absolute focus to us.

"As a result of this, on February 15 we agreed £4.4million to recruit an additional 60 staff to drive forward this priority. This is an increase of permanent SEND staff of nearly 15%.

"We have also invested more than £55million to create more than 1,250 additional places in specialist and mainstream schools and this work continues at pace."