National Ombudsmen
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West Northamptonshire failed to provide education for numerous children with SEND

West Northamptonshire Council has agreed to review the cases of eight children with Special Educational Needs, who have been out of school for long periods, following an Ombudsman investigation.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was initially contacted by the family of a primary school aged autistic child who had not received a proper education for around two years.

From 2021, the child, who has significant difficulty communicating their wishes and needs, was left isolated from their peers in a separate room in a mainstream primary school because the school said it could not meet their needs. As a result they were isolated, not learning, regressing in their personal development and self-harming.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council had been aware the child was not receiving the education and support they needed, but it did not review their Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan when it should have done. The council then did not act robustly or quickly enough to find a more suitable school for the child to attend after many of the schools it consulted said they could not meet the child’s needs or did not have space to take them, delaying the child being in an appropriate placement.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“I’m pleased the council has agreed to the recommendations I have made to remedy the situation for the family, but it should not have taken the threat of a public interest report for them to have done so.

“During our investigation the council identified eight other children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans who had also been without a school place for more than six months. We have asked it to carry out a review of all those cases and offer them a similar remedy where appropriate.

“It has also confirmed it has a shortage of special school places and has committed to opening several specialist units and a new special school to meet the needs of children with SEND.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to pay the family a combined £7,125 for the faults identified and the distress caused.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to provide the Ombudsman with the confirmation of the approved budget for the specialist units and special school it has planned to meet its duty to children with SEND in the area.

It will also share the learning from the complaint with all staff members involved in the EHC Plan process, and remind relevant staff of the council’s powers and responsibility to name an appropriate school or parental preference school in a child’s EHC plan, and of its duty to ensure special educational provision is being provided.

The council has agreed to review the cases of the other eight children identified, who are without an appropriate school placement, to ensure the council has taken all available actions to secure an appropriate placement. It will also write to their families about this complaint.

Related Content : West Northamptonshire Council (21 018 799)

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