A family has been awarded more than £7,000 in compensation after Leeds City Council were accused of having ‘lost control’ of their son’s education.
The young pupil has missed more than three years of school, with the council guilty of a number of failings, a report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said.
The child’s father, who took the case to the Ombudsman, complained “promises had not been kept by the council”, according to the report.
The council has apologised, saying it’s handling a huge increase in demand for help for special needs children.
The Ombudsman said the child, who has autism, ADHD and ‘entrenched’ mental health issues, was pulled out of school in October 2019, with mainstream education no longer felt to be suitable for him.
The report told how the pupil’s parents wanted him to attend a specialist school for children with complex needs in Richmond Hill, in east Leeds, but were advised there was no space available until September 2023.
Although available places at other similar schools elsewhere in the city were offered to the family, these were rejected, with ‘transport’ provision among the concerns raised.
The council initially refused to provide home tutoring to the child in the meantime, on the grounds they believed the family had been offered a ‘suitable’ place.
But at the end of 2021, they did agree to fund some through the child’s old school, according to the report.
But the Ombudsman added: “However, it appears the council did not follow through its plans, so that by July 2022, seven months later, support was still not in place and the school was still ‘chasing’ the council for funding (for the tutor).
“Something had clearly gone wrong. The council was responsible and is at fault.”
The local authority also apologised for a delay in reviewing his son’s education health and care plan (EHCP), which councils have to devise for all youngsters with special needs.
Councils across the country have experienced huge rise in requests for EHCPs since the pandemic.
The council also “acknowledged there were times when communication with the family fell short,” the report said.
The Ombudsman, who referred to the boy anonymously as ‘B’ throughout the report said:
“In conclusion, the council appears to have lost control of B’s education between May 2021 when it failed to review and amend his EHC plan and December 2022 when it agreed to consider home tutoring again and review the plans in light of the difficulties his school was having recruiting a tutor.”
The Ombudsman recommended the council pay the family £7,200 to “recognise the impact on the family of the missed opportunity to engage B in learning”.
In response, a spokesperson for the council said: “Leeds, like many local authorities, has experienced a significant increase in the number of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
“Whilst we do not comment on individual cases, the council accepts the findings in the Ombudsman report and has apologised to the family.
“This is a complex case which the council has attempted to resolve in a number of ways. The council is continuing to work with the family and remains firmly committed to ensuring that all children living in Leeds have access to good quality and appropriate education.”