Luton to review special education needs for children after Ombudsman upholds mum's complaint
Luton Borough Council is to review its provision for children with special education needs after a complaint was upheld by the Ombudsman for local government and social care.
The council has agreed to create a detailed action plan to improve some of its services for children in response to the investigation, which revealed "significant concerns".
The Ombudsman upheld a complaint about the education provided to a primary school child, and found the council had not reviewed or amended the child’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan as required by law.
As a result, the council has agreed to pay £4,086 for the child’s educational provision and a further £500 for the mother’s distress and time and trouble.
It will also pay them a further £100 to acknowledge the frustration it caused and delaying the family’s right to appeal.
The investigation report stated: "As a result of these failures, Ms X said her child’s transition to a special primary school in September 2017 was not as effective as it should have been and her child suffered distress resulting from a lack of appropriate support at their new school.
"Ms X said she was also distressed because of the impact of the failures on her child... She spent time and trouble trying to ensure her child got the correct provision."
During the investigation, the Ombudsman also discovered Luton was carrying out significantly fewer annual reviews of children’s EHC Plans than the law requires.
The investigation found the local authority could not accurately say how many annual reviews it had undertaken because it did not have the required paperwork about review meetings taking place in its schools.
Overall, the investigation judged that the council's lack of information proved it did not have an adequate system to ensure children’s EHC Plans are reviewed properly as required by law, and plans were not being monitored.
The failings of the borough council and its health partners were previously highlighted by an Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) joint inspection of the Luton local area.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Our investigation into the concerns raised by a mother about the services provided to her child echo those raised by both the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted in their joint review of Luton’s special educational needs services.
“It is vitally important that councils make regular reviews of children’s EHC Plans to ensure they meet the children’s current, rather than historic needs. The council is aware that reviews are not being held for some children, but has stressed it is working hard to improve its information systems.
“I welcome the steps the council is making to improve its services for children in its area and it will keep us informed of the action it is going to take. We have also informed Ofsted of our findings under our information sharing agreement with them.”
The council has agreed to produce a detailed action plan to produce its own procedures for monitoring the delivery of all its EHC Plans through annual reviews. This plan will give a timescale for when it plans to put the procedures in place and the staff training needed to implement this.
Cllr Mahmood Hussain, portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “We are sorry that this child and their family have clearly not received the offer and experience of quality service that they need.
“We accept the findings of the Ombudsman’s report and acknowledge that we did not review the Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan within the statutory timescales.
“We are already working on a robust action plan to ensure regular reviews of all children’s EHC Plans are conducted within statutory timescales. We have also appointed a significant number of additional staff to support the process as we are determined to ensure that all children in Luton get the right support at the right time.
“We are currently coming to the end of a programme that has seen 220 professionals from across health, social care and education at Luton Council receive training on the EHCP process and the associated statutory responsibilities.”