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28.03.19

Local government ombudsman slams Surrey County Council for delaying disabled boy’s education by 15 months

Surrey County Council and its under-fire special needs services has been criticised by the local government ombudsman after it took 15 months too long to provide a disabled boy with adequate education.

The boy, who has “significant special education needs (SEN),” was left in a school unable to provide the right occupational therapy support, according to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The council took 15 months too long to issue the boy’s education, health and care plan (EHC), and “unfairly limited” his father’s ability to chase for updates.

Surrey CC was criticised for “misinformation and poor communication” after trying to block the father’s attempts, and has been ordered to pay the family £3,750.

The council said the boy is now in a school able to provide for his needs.

Michael King, the local government and social care ombudsman, said: “We have issued a national report on the councils’ handling of EHC plans, and numerous reports since of individual councils getting things wrong in this area.

“I urge councils to take note of the advice and recommendations they contain.

“This case was beset with misinformation and poor communication from the council with the family.

“On a number of occasions, we asked officers to back up their assertions about what the father had agreed, and its reasoning behind certain decisions. The council provided us with little or no evidence.”

This is the second time the ombudsman has upheld a complaint from the same family about the council’s communication, and the local authority also had to apologise to a family of another disabled boy who missed out on half a year of schooling.

King added: “I welcome its ready acceptance of my recommendations, and hope the council will now learn the lessons about keeping people properly informed.”

The council’s lead for all-age learning, Julie Iles, said the authority had fully accepted the findings and apologised to the family as well as providing extra training for staff.

“We've already made changes to services since this happened and we're carrying out a wider transformation which is aimed at giving children and young people the support they need at the earliest opportunity, in line with our vision for Surrey that no-one is left behind,” Iles added.

Surrey County Council plans to cut £21m from its special educational needs cash purse as part of £82m of savings in its 2019-20 budget.

But the plans have faced a fierce backlash, with four mothers taking the council to the High Court, but their legal challenge failed last week.

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