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County council agrees to review resourcing of SEN services following Ombudsman investigation

Hampshire County Council has agreed to pay a mother of a child with special educational needs (SEN) more than £3,000 in compensation and review the resources it has put into its SEN team, following an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The Director of Children's Services and Lead Member for Children's Services will now carry out a review of whether the resourcing is sufficient to carry out its workload within statutory timescales, and confirm they have reviewed details of the council's SEN recovery plan following the investigation.

The recommendations came after a mother complained to the Ombudsman that her son had missed out on three months of education and SEN support because the county council delayed issuing his amended Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan.

The mother said her son, who has autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), had been attending mainstream primary school with 25 hours a week one-to-one support. When it became apparent the boy could no longer attend, the council did not act quickly enough to put it in place alternative education. This meant he had three months of inadequate SEN provision followed by three months of missed education.

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The Ombudsman also found the council did not do enough to provide alternative education for the boy while it waited for a place to become available at a suitable school. "The council agreed to provide Z [the boy] with additional help by increasing his one to one support by five hours a week from 28 May 2019," the report said. "But there is no evidence it considered Z's need for alternative provision. This is fault causing injustice."

The mother lost chances to appeal the council's actions at the SEND tribunal because the council did not tell her of her right. According to the watchdog, it also failed to name the type of school in the boy's EHC Plan when it did issue the document.

Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said the case and three others he had recently issued about services for children with SEND in the county, "highlight the significant impact delays can have on families when councils do not complete their duties within the statutory timescales".

Mr King added: "I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations in this case and hope the review of services it has agreed to make will ensure children with SEN in Hampshire are better served in future."

In light of the findings, the county council has agreed to apologise and pay the mother £100 for her lost opportunity to appeal the council's decision to keep the original EHC Plan in place. It will also pay her £200 for the lost opportunity to appeal the provision made for her son in an amended EHC Plan and for her time and trouble caused by the delay.

Additionally, the council has agreed to pay the family £200 for each school month of inadequate SEN provision for the benefit of the boy's education, and £550 for each school month of education the boy missed. This totals £2,250 for the lost provision. The council will also pay the mother a further £750 for the time and trouble of trying to get the council to fulfil its statutory duties and the distress and uncertainty caused.

A spokesperson for Hampshire said: "We always try to do our level best to get things right first time for Hampshire residents, and we take all complaints very seriously."

They added: "Where we haven't been able to resolve things directly with the member of the public, we work closely with the Ombudsman to resolve any issues raised and improve our services along the way.

"In this case, we have complied with all the recommendations set out in the Ombudsman's report, including issuing a formal apology to the parent and making a payment of £3,300 in compensation. We have also made improvements to our special educational needs and disability service processes and practices to ensure that, going forward, agreed changes to Educational, Health and Care Plans are made promptly, so that the final Plan is issued as quickly as possible, and within the statutory deadlines."

Adam Carey

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