Latest Public Sector News

16.01.19

Ombudsman slams Norfolk County Council over failings in special needs provision cases with compensation paid out

The local government ombudsman has reprimanded Norfolk County Council over its provision for children with special educational needs (SEN) after upholding 11 complaints against the council in the last two years.

The ombudsman said the number of complaints upheld against Norfolk was one of the highest in England, a day after the county council was criticised for proposing to close 38 of its children centres.

It found that Norfolk council had “failed” two boys with SEN after the two most recent cases subject to separate investigations revealed the children “were left without vital support and provision they needed at crucial times of their education.”

In one case, a mother complained the council did not provide her son with suitable education provision for nearly two years to complete his education, health and care (EHC) plan and said her son received very little support during that time.

In the second, it took 26 weeks to produce a boy’s EHC plan and when the primary school-aged boy was excluded from school, the council did not provide him with suitable education provision and caused him to miss out on full-time education for eight months.

As a result of these complaints to the ombudsman, the council agreed to pay the family from the first case £4,000, plus a fee for their time and trouble coming to the ombudsman and has apologised to the family in the second case and will pay £3,500 to “recognise the injustice caused by the council’s actions.”

The local government and social care ombudsman Michael King said: “In both cases these children were without the vital support and provision they needed at crucial times of their education. I hope the remedies the council has agreed will go some way to repairing the damage done.”

Norfolk County Council has agreed to a number of service reviews and improvements following the reports, including looking at other ways of providing alternative education for children out of school and completing an audit of children missing from education.

It has announced that it will invest £1.5m to double the size of its specialist education team and to speed up assessments and ECH plans so they are delivered within the statutory timescales.

It will also review its EHC plan process to ensure they are introduced within statutory timescales and improve the way it monitors missing professional advice.

The chairman of the children’s services committee at the council said: “We want all children with special educational needs in Norfolk to get the right help as early as possible, whether this is in mainstream or specialist schools.

“Like many authorities, we’ve been facing unprecedented pressure across SEN services, but we are investing, recruiting and lobbying to ensure that we have the right resources for Norfolk’s children.”

Image credit - monkeybusinessimages

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