Mr and Ms B made a complaint to the Ombudsman about Ceredigion County Council, as the Local Education Authority (“the Authority”). The Authority had considered a complaint made by Mr and Ms B about their son’s (“L”) education provision. L transferred to secondary education in September 2011. He has Global Developmental Delay, a brain tumour and Epilepsy; he suffers both Petit-mal and Grand-mal seizures. He has low muscle tone, poor visual spatial awareness, poor balance and chronic constipation. He has a range of prescribed medication which must be administered regularly. He passed as having Special Educational Needs (“SEN”) and he has had a Statement of Special Educational Needs (a Statement”) since February 2003.
In her first complaint to the Ombudsman, in April 2013, Ms B said that the Authority had failed to listen to them or L’s key worker during the annual reviews of the statements. Following discussion between this office and the Authority, the Authority, the Authority was given time to complete its own formal investigation of the complaint. The Authority subsequently apologised for the time taken to reply to the first complaint and made some recommendations, but it did not uphold the complaint. In October 2013, Ms B made a further complaint to the Ombudsman, she said they were dissatisfied with the outcome of the Authority’s formal investigation because:
- L’s Statement was out of date.
- The Authority did not listen to or, work with, Mr and Ms B to ensure that the appropriate educational provision was made for A.
- Mr B had lost income as a result of the situation, and Ms B felt they had to engage a solicitor to help them deal with the Authority. They wanted the Authority to cover their “material losses”.
Following my investigation, the Ombudsman upheld the complaint and recommended that the Authority should:
- Give Mr and Mrs B an unequivocal written apology for the failures identified by this report.
- Make a payment of £1,000 to reflect the amount of time L had reduced education; the delays in the Authority’s handling of the case; and the time and trouble taken by the family in pursuing this complaint with the Authority and this office.
- Share this report with the staff involved in the case, the Resource Panel and the First School (so that the lessons that should be learned from the report can be understood).
- Revise the format of the SENC1 forms and other notices it has issued with the proposed statement, a proposed amended statement or an amended notice between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014. The audit should seek to confirm that each SENC1, or other notice issued, complied with Schedule 1 of the Regulations. I f the audit identifies that any notice issued did not comply with the Regulations, within one month of the audit each affected family must be given a written apology and full information must be provided.
- Complete an independent audit of the Resource Panel records to ensure that those records are capable of explaining the rationale for any departure from the SEN Code of Practice. If the audit identifies a systematic lack of Panel records then, within two months of the audit, the Authority must must develop and implement an appropriate record keeping process.
- Formally instruct all staff involved in the administration of its SEN provision to follow the relevant guidance.
- Carry out refresher training on its Complaints and Concerns Policy for the Education department. The training should include clear guidance on the escalation of a complaint from stage 1 to stage 2 of its Policy.