Hertfordshire County Council to pay out £1,500 to parent after EHCP delays

The delay caused ‘undue distress’ and a loss of educational provision for her daughter
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Hertfordshire County Council is to pay a parent £1,500 after her child missed out on 15 weeks of schooling due to a delay to her application for educational support.

An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is a legally-binding documents that set out the special educational, health and care needs of a child or young person – as well as the extra help they will need to overcome barriers to learning.

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And they have to be completed, amended and issued within statutory time-frames.

Kimberly Farmer Unsplash.Kimberly Farmer Unsplash.
Kimberly Farmer Unsplash.

Now, the county council has agreed to payout £1,500 to a parent, after an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found they took too long.

According to the complaint to the Ombudsman, the parent applied for an EHCP for her daughter in 2022.

But she complained that she did not find out the application had been refused until April 2023 – when she asked the school.

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She told the Ombudsman she then contacted the council twice but did not receive a response – nor did she receive a response to a request for a meeting.

And, only after making a complaint, was she told a council officer would call her in late June – after which she was told the council would issue an EHCP.

A draft EHCP was then issued in mid-September – and the final plan in mid-October.

The parent complained that the council did not follow correct processes for assessing her child and took too long to issue the EHCP – causing her undue distress and losing educational provision for her daughter.

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According to the Ombudsman’s report, the council maintains it did send the decision letter in January 2023.

But the report says the Ombudsman finds that the council probably did not’ include the letter in a bundle of documents sent out.

She suggests that if the parent had received the letter in January, it would have resulted in an earlier meeting with a council officer and an agreement to issue an EHCP in March – 16 weeks earlier.

She also points to the council’s failure to respond to the parents request for a resolution meeting.

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And she says that, even after the decision was taken to issue an EHCP, it took a total of 15 weeks to issue a final plan – a delay of seven weeks.

Overall she says the EHCP was issued 23 weeks – that’s almost six months – later than it should have been.

And – accounting for school holidays – she suggests the child missed out on 15 weeks of provision.

As a result, the Ombudsman has recommended the council pay £300 to the parent in recognition of the frustration and distress caused – and a further £1,200 to recognise the impact of lost provision.

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A spokesperson for the county council said: “We would like to apologise to the family involved in this case.

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

“We take all decisions and findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s 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.

“A wider strategy to improve outcomes going forward has been put into place, including an additional ongoing £7million investment into statutory SEND services and creating 1,000 new SEND school places between 2018 and 2026.”