Council to pay family £3.6k after failing to properly support Hertfordshire teen with autism for up to three years

His mum said the boy was left distressed with low self-esteem and feeling socially isolated

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 9:43 am
Updated Monday, 21st February 2022, 9:56 am
Hertfordshire County Council

Hertfordshire County Council has agreed to pay £3,650 to the parents of a teenager with special educational needs - after failing to provide the support he needed for up to THREE years.

And - following an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman - they have agreed to make a number of changes too.

According to a report, published by the Ombudsman today (February 17), the boy - who is on the autism spectrum - should have received support with his academic work and social skills.

Sign up to our daily Hemel Today newsletter

But he was, says the Ombudsman, left 'without a significant proportion' of the support, which had been agreed to in his Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

That - according to the boy's mother - had left the boy distressed, with low self-esteem and feeling socially isolated.

And in publishing the report, Ombudsman Michael King has stressed the importance of emotional and social support.

“For many children and young people with autism spectrum conditions, emotional and social help can be just as important to their wellbeing as the academic assistance they should receive," said Mr King.

“In this case, the boy’s mother has told us this loss of support has left her son distressed, with low self-esteem and feeling socially isolated.

"He struggles to access learning in the classroom as he approaches a key point in his education.

“I am pleased the council has accepted the faults I have found during my investigation, and hope the lengthy recommendations it will comply with should help this boy and others like him in the county.”

Read More

Read More
Hertfordshire County Council ordered to pay out almost £5000 to family by Ombuds...

As part of the support specified in his EHCP, the teenage boy was expecting to receive four hours of academic support every half term - totalling 24 hours.

But between September 2020 and July 2021, it was reported that he received less than three hours.

In addition, says the Ombudsman, the boy did not receive the specified help with social skills between September 2018 and April 2019 - nor between September 2020 and July 2021.

And nor did he receive support for emotional wellbeing between May 2019 and March 2020 - with support not fully provided until March 2021.

Following the investigation by the Ombudsman, the county council has agreed to pay the boy and his family £500 to recognise their frustration and distress.

It will pay a further £2,900 to the boy for the special education provision that he lost - and a further £250 for the provision he may have been entitled to between May and July 2020.

In addition the council has agreed to arrange for the boy to receive an extra 24 hours of one-to-one support - to account for the time he missed.

And they have agreed for a senior officer to review the provision currently in place, to ensure it is delivered properly.

Hertfordshire County Council has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that they take the findings of the Ombudsman "very seriously" - that they apologise to the family and have reviewed working practices as a direct result of the Ombudsman' investigation.

"We are committed to working in partnership with young people, parents, carers and schools to achieve that end," said a spokesperson for the county council.

“We know how important this is to our families - we share their vision and are working hard to ensure that every child can achieve their potential in all areas of life."

Meanwhile, in response, they have also pointed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic during this period.

“While this in no way excuses our failure to provide adequate EHCP provision in this case, the county council, in common with many local authorities, experienced an unprecedented level of demand for specialist SEND provision during the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

"The challenges of securing EHCPs during a time of great disruption were recognised in the Ombudsman’s report."

And he continued: "Hertfordshire has seen a 47 per cent increase in pupils with Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) since 2019 and is one of the largest local authority areas in England, having the sixth highest number of children and young people requiring Education Health and Care Plans.

“In recognition of this gap in specialist provision, we have taken on considerable work to identify how best to meet the increasing needs of our children and young people, and ensure we have the best provision to meet those needs."

That work - said the spokesperson - includes an increase in investment into SEND funding in mainstream schools from £9.5m to £17.5m this year, the creation of more than 300 new permanent special school places and the development of a county-wide pattern of specialist resource provision in mainstream schools.

"We will continue to work hard with families to make sure that their children’s needs are met and that they are happy with the support received,” he said.

The full report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman can be found at www.lgo.org.uk