Dorset Council to pay £5,600 for special needs failure

Dorset Council to pay £5,600 for special needs failure

Published by George Sharpe at 8:13am 4th September 2019. (Updated at 8:15am 4th September 2019)

A boy with special educational needs went two years without 'proper education' according to a new report.

The Local Government and Social Care ombudsman (LGO) found the former Dorset County Council failed to make suitable provisions for the boy who has ADHD and autism - which Dorset Council is being told it must rectify.

The LGO has told Dorset Council it should now pay £5,600 towards the boy's education, and to remedy the distress caused.

The new Dorset Council says it accepts the recommendations, and is also working on it's own improvements to the system too.

Stock image. Recommendations to Dorset Council included paying £5,600 towards the boy and his family, as well as an apology
Stock image. Recommendations to Dorset Council included paying £5,600 towards the boy and his family, as well as an apology.

The boy who has autism and ADHD was left without proper education for two years.

The report from the LGO says it became clear mainstream school was not suitable for him, but the local authority failed to provide him with appropriate alternatives. 

It was arranged for him to go to a community farm - but 9 months in it was discovered the farm was not Ofsted registered, putting him at risk of harm.

He was then sent to a private setting for children with special needs, but they weren't able to provide full-time education. 

The family complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

They found the details in the child's Education, Health and Care plan had not been met, nor had there been 'suitable alternative provision'.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“From the start of secondary education in September 2015, the council should have kept the boy’s Education, Health and Care Plan under review. But despite multiple triggers, it did not even consider conducting a reassessment – leaving him with the same EHC Plan since primary school. 

“Consequently, the boy has been out of full-time education for two years, affecting his ability to take his GCSE exams and his future prospects. His father has told us his son has spent a considerable time isolated at home, setting back his education, increasing his anxiety and adversely affecting his confidence and independence.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first complaint we have upheld about the council’s provision for children with special educational needs: we have found fault on eight separate occasions since March 2018. I am concerned the council is not learning from these cases, and it suggests there are wider systemic issues that need to be addressed.

“I am pleased the new council has agreed to my recommendations, and commend the steps it is now making to address the problems I have found in this and earlier cases.”

The ombudsman has recommended the council make an apology and allocate £4,000 for the boy's educational benefit, and consult with his parents on how it should be spent. 

The council must also pay the boy £1,000 for the distress caused, and a further £300 to each of his parents for the injustice caused.

It will also hold a meeting to discuss the boy’s education with all relevant parties on how best to progress.

Dorset Council's response

The new Dorset Council now says they're acting upon the recommendations in the report. 

Cllr Andrew Parry, portfolio holder for children, education and early help at Dorset Council, said:

"We fully accept the ombudsman's findings and apologise to the family for the stress and disruption caused, particularly to the young person involved. Improving our SEND services is a priority for the new Dorset Council.

"We have a new director and new head of education & learning and are working with schools to provide more alternative education for children with additional needs in Dorset. We're also reviewing our internal processes to improve the way we support families.

"We have a lot of work to do but we're determined to make things better for children and families."

Earlier this year, the Leader of Dorset Council, Cllr Spencer Flower, wrote to the Secretary of State to highlight the 'impossible' situation councils face without additional funding. 

Cllr Parry added:

"Like other councils, we're in a situation where the funding we receive from Government just doesn't match the increasing demand. We have been pushing MPs for more money, so our children and young people can receive the support they need and deserve."