Council to pay almost £20,000 after child misses out on full-time secondary school education

A council has agreed to pay almost £20,000 in compensation after a boy with special educational needs missed out on much of his senior schooling because the local authority did not provide suitable alternative education for him.

Sheffield City Council’s decision to pay compensation follows an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman which found the council at fault.

The boy, who is now 15, has Asperger Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Pathological Demand Avoidance. When he could not stay at his first secondary school, the council put in place alternative education on a significantly reduced timetable. This was with an unregistered provider, and it did not provide the boy with proper formal schooling, according to the Ombudsman.

The boy left his first secondary school in 2015 and eventually started at a second school in April 2018. He did not complete a full week's education until March 2020.

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The Ombudsman's investigation found 12 faults with the way the council handled the family's case. These include the council taking too long to create an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan for the boy when he moved from primary school to secondary school. This should have been completed in 2015 but remained incomplete until December 2017. The mother did not receive a copy until May 2018.

The LGO also criticised the way the council dealt with the mother's complaint. It carried out its own investigation and identified many of the failings but then failed to take action to address these or remedy the injustice caused. The Ombudsman criticised this as a lost opportunity which contributed to the ongoing delay and frustration for the family.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said: "Last year we upheld an unprecedented 91% of detailed investigations about EHC Plans and we have published numerous reports on the subject in recent years. We commonly hear from parents that they are left to battle through bureaucracy, just to get the support they are entitled to.

"While this case is an extreme example, it serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when councils get things wrong and the devastating affect this has on children's education and wellbeing and their families who are left to pick up the strain.

"Along with the remedy the council has agreed for this boy and his family, I am pleased it has agreed to undertake a full audit of its alternative education provision, as I am not convinced the action it has already taken has fully resolved the significant issues highlighted by this case."

Sheffield City Council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay them £19,950 to make up for the boy's lost education, to be used for his educational benefit.

The Ombudsman said it should also pay the mother £250 for the time and trouble making her complaint and £800 for the avoidable distress of having to delay her own education. It will also pay the family a further £467 for the boy's lost school meal entitlement.

In full, the Ombudsman has asked that the council pays £21,467 to the family.

According to the report, the council should also organise an educational psychologist to work with the school and family to establish any additional and identified needs and update his EHC Plan accordingly.

Cllr Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Sheffield City Council, said: “We fully accept the findings from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and take full responsibility for what happened.

“This situation is unacceptable and we are very sorry that Mrs B’s son ‘G’ was ever put in this situation where he did not receive the right education provision and that it took so long for him to be placed in the right school, in order to meet his needs."

Cllr Mohamed added: “Over the past couple of years we have worked hard to make sure this will not happen again, and that all children in Sheffield receive the support they need. Our aim is that all the SEND services we provide, meet the needs of our children.

“Every child deserves an education that meets their needs, and we are working hard to make sure that this is a reality across the city.”

Adam Carey

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