Council to pay child with special needs and family more than ?7000
A council will pay a family more than £7,000 in compensation after it failed to ensure a child with autism received a proper education for nearly two years. Multiple failures were found in the way West Northamptonshire Council (WNC), formed in 2021, dealt with the child’s case.
In a blistering report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO), WNC was revealed to have caused the child “significant physical and mental distress” and failed to communicate as it said it would with the child’s mother. The LGO said despite repeated requests for comment, WNC failed to respond at “the earliest opportunity” and only then after the report process had begun.
As a result of the LGO’s findings, the council will review the cases of eight children with special educational needs (SEND), who have also been out of school for long periods. The LGO will also need to “signpost” the cases and their parents to the ombudsman if they too are dissatisfied with the council’s actions.
WNC’s cabinet member for children, Councillor Fiona Baker, said council members were “disappointed” and “sorry” to have “previously fallen short” but had accepted the LGO’s findings.
The LGO found that from 2021, the child was left isolated in a separate room in a mainstream primary school. The school said it was not meeting the child’s needs in “any way, shape or form”.
WNC agreed a plan with the school and the child’s parents but then did not follow through and finalise the plan when it should have. The LGO said it had found WNC was aware the child was “not receiving the education and support they needed” at the time but “did not act robustly or quickly enough to find a more suitable school”.
The authority will pay the family a total of £7,125 for its failures and distress caused. The child’s parents started court action against WNC last September.
The child’s mother told the LGO that she “did not want and would not accept” an apology from WNC. The child had been due to start at their new school sometime this year and was unable to start any earlier because it was at capacity.
Michael King, the LGO, 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.”
Coun Baker added: “Like many other local authorities facing a lack of places for children and young people with SEND, we hear first-hand the impact this is having on them and their families and know more must be done to support them.
“That’s why we have been prioritising these issues with work well under way on an action plan that will see a significant increase in SEND places. We are absolutely committed to making this happen, however we know this change can’t all happen overnight.”
Earlier this month, WNC approved a new £1.1m special needs unit at Northampton’s Hunsbury Park Primary School for up to 50 children. Another plan is progressing on a new special school in Tiffield with WNC, developers and the Greenwood Multi Academy Trust.
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- ^ West Northamptonshire Council (www.northantslive.news)