Boy with special educational needs left without therapy after council delays

By Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter

21st May 2024 | Local News

The main Guildhall building in Kingston. Archive image. (Photo: Oliver Monk)
The main Guildhall building in Kingston. Archive image. (Photo: Oliver Monk)

A Kingston mum has won £1,300 after her son with special educational needs was left without therapy for a full academic term due to council delays. 

She had previously disagreed with Kingston Council over the suitability of her son's specialist education placement, after she claimed he had 'come home with injuries.'

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report found the mum, referred to only as Ms Y, was caused 'avoidable frustration and uncertainty' due to faults in the council's communication. 

It said the attainment of her son, named X, was affected by the delays in providing him with therapy after he changed placements.

X had a placement at a specialist education provider and an education, health and care (EHC) plan, which set out what arrangements needed to be made to meet his needs. 

Ms Y told the council in December 2022 he had come home from the placement with injuries and that she was planning to withdraw him over concerns for his wellbeing. X stopped going to the placement in January 2023. 

Ms Y requested an emergency review of his EHC plan, which took place on January 19. The provider of X's placement told the council it could no longer meet his needs on February 2.

But the council decided not to change X's placement in March. It issued a revised EHC plan for X which still named this placement for the rest of the academic year. 

Ms Y appealed this decision to the SEND tribunal and complained to the council.

The council issued a final revised EHC plan for X on June 26 that removed his previous placement and outlined a new package for him, which set out arrangements to meet his educational needs other than at school. 

The package included speech and language therapy (SALT) and occupational therapy (OT). Ms Y withdrew her appeal to the SEND tribunal, which was confirmed on 18 July.

The council accepted it delayed responding to X's emergency review, which the ombudsman said caused Ms Y 'avoidable frustration'. 

The report also ruled the council should have secured the education and therapy provision in X's EHC plan from September but did not arrange for therapists to assess him until October, while he did not begin speech and language therapy and occupational therapy until January this year.

The report said: "The council's delay in arranging the assessment meant there was no prospect of SALT and beginning at the correct time. X went a full academic term without benefitting from the SALT and OT specified in his EHC plan. 

"X's EHC plan makes clear that SALT and OT programmes devised by therapists are embedded into his education provision. Any lack of therapy provision would therefore have a significant impact on the wider delivery of education provision, affecting X's educational attainment.

"I have also found the council at fault for its communication with Ms Y during this period. Following X's assessment, it took the council two months to confirm when therapies would begin, despite Ms Y seeking regular updates. 

"This caused Ms Y avoidable frustration and uncertainty."

The council has agreed to apologise to Ms Y and pay her £1,300 in total. The figure includes £200 for the 'avoidable frustration and uncertainty she experienced because of faults in the council's communication, and the delay in responding to X's emergency review', along with £1,100 for the 'special educational provision X missed for one term in the 2023/24 academic year'.

A Kingston Council spokesperson said: "We are sorry that the family needed to escalate their concerns. 

"Kingston Council accepts the LGSCO recommendations and has taken these forward in partnership with NHS South West London Integrated Care Board (ICB) and the local health provider responsible for the delivery of therapy services."

     

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