Cheshire East Council

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Council removed health care support for boy with medical needs, Ombudsman investigation finds

A boy, who has visual impairments and other medical conditions, was without the support he needed for months because Isle of Wight Council did not clarify a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities tribunal's decision in time, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The boy's Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) was considered by the tribunal in Spring 2019. Along with other areas, the tribunal also considered the boy's health provision needs, including an air conditioning unit at home and school, a mobile unit for overnight respite stays, and support with hospital visits. The council disputed this provision.

The tribunal issued its decision in May 2019, and instead of contacting the tribunal to clarify its instructions, the council removed the health provision from the boy's plan and issued a final EHC Plan.

The council did not contact the tribunal until November 2019 when the boy's mother raised concerns, by which time it was too late for the tribunal to comment.

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In February 2020, the council reported to the Ombudsman that it planned to fit an air conditioning unit before the summer at the boy's respite placement and offered financial assistance for him to attend his medical appointments.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said the council knew the correct way forward was to clarify the uncertainty it had about the tribunal's instructions, "but instead ploughed ahead and removed it".

Mr King added: "The council did clarify the position and has since put the health support in place, but this was only after the mother challenged the final version of the plan. Had it done the right thing sooner, the boy would not have been without the support, to which he is entitled, for as long.

"I am pleased the council has now proposed to accept my recommendations to apologise to the family and provide some simple measures to ensure this sort of discrepancy does not occur again, but it is disappointing it has only decided to do this at a late stage of the investigation."

In light of the findings, the Ombudsman recommended that the council apologise to the family for failing to clarify the tribunal's actions and pay £300 in compensation. Of the £300, the boy should receive £150 to recognise the "stress and anxiety" caused by the unnecessary delay in agreeing his support and the mother should receive £150 for the "distress and time and trouble" she was put through in pursuing the matter.

The Ombudsman has also recommended that Isle of Wight provide training or reminders to ensure staff seek to clarify any discrepancies in tribunal decisions at the time the decision is issued.

An Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said “We are aware the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued a report following its investigation of a complaint against Isle of Wight Council.  The report will be considered by the Cabinet on Wednesday 16 June 2021.

“The council has already agreed to the findings and recommendations of the LGSCO, has issued an apology to the parties concerned, and Cabinet is considering the report, as it is required to do, to assure itself that the circumstances leading to the report are not repeated.”

Adam Carey

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