Bedfordshire boy missed more than a year of education because of council failures

Central Beds Council has apologised unreservedly to the family

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 6:06 pm

Central Bedfordshire Council will review the way it provides alternative education for children who are unable to attend school because of medical issues after failings meant a boy missed out on over a year of education.

And the council has apologised 'unreservedly' for the poor service given to the youngster and his family - as well as agreeing to pay more than £5,000 to the family.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman carried out an investigation into a case where the council failed to provide proper alternative education to a boy who was unable to attend his primary school.

Central Bedfordshire Council

The boy’s family also complained the council did not put in place extra support when it became aware the boy had been diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition and related anxiety.

The youngster stopped attending school in November 2018 because of his behavioural difficulties, was later privately diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition.

In mid-June 2019 the council wrote to the family declining to undertake an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment because, despite his acknowledged issues, it was looking to work with education and medical professionals to reintegrate him into his mainstream primary school.

Alternative education was not put in place until September 2019, but this was on a limited part-time basis, and it did not agree to an EHC assessment until the end of February 2020. His final EHC Plan was issued at the end of August 2020.

Concerns other children have been denied education

The parents complained to the Ombudsman, whose investigation found the council should have acted promptly when it discovered the boy was out of school, considered whether his current school was suitable for him, and considered putting in place alternative education. Instead, the council wrongly placed the responsibility for this on the school.

The investigation also found the council allowed the case to drift, rather than taking decisive action to nominate a named officer responsible for co-ordinating the council’s action.

The Ombudsman said the council should have provided alternative education for the summer term and had a better rationale for the limited amount of support the youngster was offered.

The council’s underlying policies which led to its poor decision-making were also investigated, and found to have significant faults.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “This case is yet another example of a child being deprived of their rightful education because of poor council practice.

"That it is such a common occurrence, and an area where we uphold such a significant proportion of investigations, points to systemic problems not just locally but nationwide.”

Central Beds Council 'extremely sorry' for poor service

A Central Beds Council spokesperson said: “We are extremely sorry for the poor service we gave this young person and his family.

"The council accepts all the findings and has already begun actioning the Ombudsman’s recommendations, including reviewing all outstanding cases and implementing new alternative education procedures and policies.

"We apologise unreservedly to the family for the standard of service we provided and the impact it has had on them.”

The council will pay the boy's parents £1,000 to recognise their distress and a further £250 for their time and trouble in bringing the complaint.

It has also agreed to make a combined payment of £4,800 to the parents to be used for their son’s educational benefit to acknowledge the education he has missed.

And the council will also review its procedures for deciding the reasons for a pupil’s non-school attendance, and review and amend its approach to alternative education to ensure pupils out of school for medical reasons receive appropriate suitable education.

All the council's cases of pupils out of school between March 2019 to 2020 will now be reviewed to ensure faults identified in this case have not occurred in other cases. If they have, the council should remedy the injustice caused to the child without their parents or carers having to make a formal complaint.