A special meeting has been arranged by Central Bedfordshire Council after a local government ombudsman found fault in a case concerning special educational needs provision.
Compensation payments of £500 and £2,700 are to be paid by the local authority to a parent and her son, in addition to a further £500 the council had promised to pay already.
An extraordinary children’s services overview and scrutiny committee meeting has been arranged for Thursday (7 October 2021) to consider the council’s response.
The ombudsman’s report concluded: “There’s fault by the council causing injustice. Central Beds Council has agreed to the recommended ways to resolve this.
“The council has made changes to its procedures, and it’s seeking to clarify a timescale with partner agencies for issuing a draft amended education health and care plan (EHCP), after an annual review decides to amend the plan.
“Central Beds Council will report back to the ombudsman within three months on how this liaison with partner agencies is progressing and if a decision about timescales has been reached.”
On amending an EHCP, the council told the ombudsman: “It doesn’t yet have a local interpretation of the ‘without delay’ timescale, as stipulated within the SEND Code of Practice, and endeavours to issue all amendment notices as soon as possible following a decision to amend as per the legislation.
“This has been identified as an area of development through Central Bedfordshire’s (SEND) written statement of action and CBC is working with authorities across the eastern region to set a regional time frame for this.
“While this isn’t a statutory requirement, it’s acknowledged that this would be good practice“.
The complaint to the ombudsman concerned a parent’s adult son who “has a diagnosis of autism (ASD), has profound learning and communication difficulties and has epileptic seizures without warning,” according to the report.
“As a child, he was educated at home using a special provider, agency U, with expertise in teaching pupils with autism,” explained the report.
“In June 2018, the council issued an amended final EHCP naming a post-19 provider, agency Z, which she thought could meet her son’s needs.
“She also asked for a personal budget to continue with some aspects of agency U’s provision. But Central Beds Council refused this on the basis that agency Z could meet all of his needs.
“She submitted a formal request for a personal budget with full costings to run a full educational programme at home, amounting to £16,590 per year.
“Her concerns were about the significant increase in her son’s seizures which meant she felt he was at risk of harm when at agency Z and was reluctant to attend.”
The council’s panel declined her request for a personal budget. “She decided to withdraw her son from agency Z in July 2019 as he was becoming avoidant, angry and exhausted,” added the report.
“In early March 2020, there was an annual review of his EHCP. Since he had stopped attending, his epileptic episodes had become less frequent.
“Central Beds Council issued a final amended EHCP on July 31st 2020, which became subject to a tribunal appeal.
“But the parent and the council have reached an agreement that her son should receive education otherwise than at school (EOTAS).
“As he’s vulnerable, such lost opportunities would have had a greater impact on him and his family than on others, so I recommended a symbolic payment at the higher end of the ombudsman’s tariff.”
Central Beds Council has “apologised unreservedly to the family for the standard of service we provided and the impact it has had on them“.