Dorset boy with autism went 2 years without proper education

Dorset boy with autism went 2 years without proper education

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:00am 3rd October 2019.

Poor council decision making led to a Dorset boy with autism being left without a proper education for two years.

It has resulted in a finding of maladministration resulting in injustice against the former Dorset County Council by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The council has also had to pay the boy and his family thousands of pounds in compensation.

Dorset Council now has to follow ten recommendations from the finding – five related to the child and his parents and five about improving its systems to prevent a repeat involving other children with additional needs.

Jonathan Mair centre
Jonathan Mair (centre of picture)

The council’s monitoring officer Jonathan Mair has recommended looking back over eight previous cases involving the county council over provision for children with special educational needs to check they have been fully acted on.

He said:

"The residual risk will only be achieved when the recommendations have been acted upon in full and there is confidence that the council is meeting its legal obligations to children with special educational needs on an ongoing basis."

He told a meeting of the council cabinet on Tuesday that the council had already gone further than the minimum requirement in publicising the finding and making the report available to the public.

Beryl Ezzard
Cllr Beryl Ezzard

Cllr Beryl Ezzard said she was glad the finding had been made public and said she had come across three cases in her ward which failed to get resolved by parents complaining.

She said:

"I hope we will now go forward and see an improvement.

"A lack of schooling for any child for two years is reprehensible."

Cabinet member for Children, Education and Early Help, Cllr Andrew Parry, said a full apology had been made to the child and his parents.

He said:

"Any child missing a sustained period of education is a very grave matter."

He added that the findings were already being acted on and changes made.

Photo of Dorset County Hall night sign
County Hall

Director of children’s services Sarah Parker said the findings had been incorporated into the council’s action plan for children with special educational needs.

The ombudsman’s report centred around the county council’s failure to offer the provision detailed in the child’s Education, Health and Care Plan.

'The Council's response'

Said Cllr Parry in a news release at the time the ombudsman’s report was released:

“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.”

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter