Hertfordshire County Council pays out £2,000, after child waited two terms to start school

His mum said she had suffered distress and anxiety not knowing when her son would be able to begin school
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Hertfordshire County Council has agreed to pay £2,000 to the parent of a child with special educational needs, after a delay in him being allocated a primary school.

The child – who has special educational needs (SEN) and autism – was assessed for an education, health and care plan (EHCP) months before he had been due to start reception class, in September 2022.

But the EHCP did not name a school and the youngster didn’t start until the following March.

The council says it is improving its strategy for allocating schools for SEND pupils. Image: Kimberly FarmerThe council says it is improving its strategy for allocating schools for SEND pupils. Image: Kimberly Farmer
The council says it is improving its strategy for allocating schools for SEND pupils. Image: Kimberly Farmer

The boy’s parent complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman that, as a result of delays and poor communication, her son lost almost two terms of education.

And now – on the direction of the Ombudsman – the council has agreed to make a payment of £2,000 to recognise the loss of education, as well as distress and time.

In her complaint the parent said the council hadn’t acted on her request to name a specialist school on his EHCP – and that she hadn’t been able to speak to the caseworker about this.

She told the Ombudsman she’d suffered distress and anxiety not knowing when her son would be able to begin school and not understanding the cause of the delay.

The Ombudsman’s investigation said there was no record of the council doing ‘anything in a practical sense’ to consider the request for a place at the specialist school.

And he found they could not show they ‘adequately’ considered alternative provision from September 2022, highlighting a five-week delay after receiving a response from the boy’s eventual school.

In addition he found failings in the council’s communications, especially after the EHCP had been issued – when he found the council did not response to emails or phone calls within agreed time-scales.

The council has been directed to clarify the outcome of its consultation with the school – and whether it will amend the EHCP.

It has also agreed to brief SEN caseworkers who draw up EHCPs for pre-school children – stressing the need children are not left without a placement when parents choose for them to start in Reception.

Hertfordshire County Council has apologised.

A spokesperson said: “We take the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s findings very seriously and where they find we have been at fault, we work hard to understand why that has happened, how we can put it right and how we can prevent it happening again.

“We are committed to working in partnership with young people, parents, carers and schools to ensure that all children with SEND and EHCPs in Hertfordshire receive the support they need and deserve.

“There are more than 36,500 children and young people identified in Hertfordshire schools as having SEND."

They stressed that although most children and young people with additional needs do not require an EHCP to access support, they had seen an 185 per cent increase in children and young people with EHCPs since 2015.

They added improvement was a key priority and a ‘strong strategy’ was in place including an additional ongoing £5million investment into SEND services and creating 1,000 new SEND school places.