A WATCHDOG has ordered Bucks Council to give a huge payout to a mother whose child it failed to find suitable schooling for.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), which investigates complaints made against local councils, told the local authority to apologise to the mum and pay £3,500 after the LGSCO found a fault.

The education watchdog said the council was at fault for not providing alternative schooling until July 2021. When the child was in education, he only received a ‘narrow’ curriculum, and his education was not full-time.

The watchdog also said the child’s education was affected by the lack of specialist advice and speech therapy, and there was a gap in his tuition.

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The mother, who is identified as Ms X, first notified the council that her son, who has special education needs (SEN), for an education, health, and care plan (EHCP) in 2018 after the secondary school raised concerns about her child, who was struggling to attend due to anxiety and bullying.

An EHCP identifies what a child’s needs are and what support is needed to help them get an education.

The council initially refused the EHCP but eventually finalised a plan in Spring 2020 following mediation between the local authority and Ms X. The council said it was ‘not aware’ of any medical evidence to support Ms X’s child’s absence from school.

Her son stayed at his current school but with additional support provided but due to the bullying and the child’s anxiety, the council agreed to find alternative education after pushback from Ms X.

She initially wanted her child to go to an independent school, but it could not meet his needs. The council decided the child should stay in his current mainstream school but will seek alternative provision due to the bullying.

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An alternative provision was found but the child received part-time tuition and was socially isolated and had no teacher.

However, her child did not receive all of the special educational provision set out in the 2020 EHCP and the new 2021 plan, prompting her to complain further.

The 2021 plan states the child should have a cognitive assessment as well as make a referral to a speech therapist. This did not happen and caused Ms X to commission a cognitive assessment out of her own pocket (£450) as well as commission tuition for her child to ‘plug gaps’ in their education.

She also said that speech therapy was not in place and wanted the search for alternative education to continue.

Ms X eventually appealed the 2021 EHCP to the SEND tribunal, which led to an amended plan being issued in mid-2022.

She said the appeal was necessary to get a suitable school named and to properly quantify and specify provision. She also said the council conceded the appeal but did not put all the provision in place.

the council agreed to reimburse Ms X for the private assessment she obtained in Summer 2021, but never did so and declined to fund the tuition Ms X arranged without its agreement.

However, the Council said it had now agreed to pay Ms X a personal budget which includes £450 for the private assessment she commissioned.

Cllr Anita Cranmer, cabinet member for education and children’s services said: “Buckinghamshire Council fully accepts the findings of the Local Government Ombudsman in this case.

“We apologise unreservedly to the family involved for the upset and distress caused to them.

“We will take the learnings forward and will follow the request of the Ombudsman to review and improve staff training and systems in order to ensure that such errors do not occur in the future.”