Norfolk County Council admits disabled schooling failures
Norfolk County Council has accepted harming a mother after failing to provide her disabled son with adequate education.
In a complaint to the local government and the Social Welfare Ombudsman, “Ms. X” accused the Council of a number of failures, including failure to provide education and therapies set out in an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – a legal document that defines a child’s needs.
In a 2018 EHCP review, Ms. X said her son, who is autistic and has special educational needs, was not getting the support he needed in school and asked the council to look into alternative arrangements.
The Ombudsman said: “Ms. X asked the council to consult with an independent school.
She also asked the council several times to inform her whether the council intends to change Child D’s EHCP and what progress has been made in reintroducing Child D’s additional therapies since he was no longer receiving them [his current school]. “
A challenge in the High Court for changes in disability benefits cost Norfolk County Council more than £ 120,000 – it can be exposed.
– Credit: Archant Norfolk
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The council did not consult the school for several months and did not update the EHCP in a timely manner.
Before going to the Ombudsman, Ms. X went through the Council’s complaints procedure, which found errors in the handling of the case.
They offered her £ 300 and acknowledged the trouble caused, but Ms. X was not satisfied and appealed.
The Ombudsman directed the council to pay Ms. X £ 900 to “redress the injustice”, reimburse £ 600 for avoidable legal expenses and offer alternative therapy.
Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said the council accepted the results and its investigation found “we could have been better”.
Mr Fisher also accepted changes to the EHCP that should have been made earlier, but said Child D is now in an appropriate full-time school place.
“We continue to strive to improve our services and ensure that EHCPs are assessed and reviewed in a timely manner,” he said.
“Like other municipalities across the country, we are finding it difficult to keep up with increasing demand.
“But since 2019, when these issues started emerging, we’ve increased the capacity of our specialist teams and this is starting to make a real difference for children and their families.”
Mr Fisher added that the council was on an “improvement journey” with a plan approved by the Department of Health and the Quality of Care Commission as part of a response to an inspection last year.