Michael King has strongly criticised Achieving for Children, the children’s service provider for Richmond council in London, for not effectively supporting children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Missed out on education
In one case, the council took too long to make the appropriate provision for a sixth-former with mental health issues. It repeatedly let her down and she missed out on her education.
Another case involved a primary school child with disabilities. He missed out on the support he needed because the council took nearly a year to complete his Education, Health and Care Plan.
A third case involved a teenager with SEN who was about to sit her GCSEs. She missed out on a year’s education at a private special school because the council failed to tell her parents it had agreed to fund it.
Documents named or filed incorrectly
When the Ombudsman’s investigators visited the council to inspect case files, they found documents often named or filed incorrectly.
Additionally, the investigation found the council had three separate IT systems for managing information. One of these could only be accessed by a single member of staff.
And in one of the cases, the Ombudsman’s investigation was only able to discover what had happened because the family had kept thorough records.
Serious concerns of systemic failure
Michael King said: “The three cases highlighted in my report give rise to serious concerns that there may be systemic failures within the processes operated by the London Borough of Richmond and Achieving for Children. I have published this report in part because other families may very well be affected by issues similar to those I have raised.
“I have now asked the council to undertake a full audit of its education provision and report back to me about what it finds. If the council finds other children have been affected, it should take steps to ensure they do not miss out on the services they are entitled to receive by law.”
Richmond agreed to apologise
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public and adult social care services. In this case, Richmond council has agreed to apologise to all three families.
It will also pay the parents of the first child £1,500 for the delay and lost education provision. It will also give them £500 for distress and £250 for their time and trouble in bringing the complaint.
In the second case, the council has already apologised. It also offered the family £4,400 to reimburse the cost of a psychology report the family had commissioned. In addition, it has agreed to pay £1,500 for the loss of SEN provision and £250 for their time and trouble.
The council has agreed to pay the third family £8,600. This is intended to make up for the loss of education provision and for distress, along with a further £500 for the time and trouble caused.
Audit and action plans
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public.
In this case, the council has agreed to carry out an audit of all the children for whom Achieving for Children is responsible. The aim will be to identify if others have been affected in the same way. If it finds similar issues with delay, children out of education, or inadequate record-keeping, it should put in place action plans to address these.