Cambridgeshire: Vulnerable boy left without education for 14 months

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Anonymous childrenImage source, Getty Images
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The boy's family said the situation had caused them "significant distress"

A council has apologised to a family whose clinically vulnerable son was left without education in the pandemic.

The nine-year-old, who has complex special educational needs, has had no formal schooling since September 2020.

An ombudsman said Cambridgeshire County Council had "so far refused to agree to any of the... recommendations to put things right for the family".

A county council spokesman said: "We know we could and should have done better."

The ombudsman also recommended the authority pay £8,000 to the family in compensation.

The family said it had caused them "significant distress".

The boy, whose needs include severe neuro-disabilities and speech and language delay, could not attend school during the pandemic on the advice of his GP.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) said the boy had "only in the last month been provided with some education at home".

The council is required to review his education and health care plan (EHCP) annually, but it was last amended in 2018.

In its report into the boy's case, the LGSCO found "fault causing injustice" and recommended the council apologise to the boy's family.

"The council failed to have due regard for [the boy's] human rights under Protocol 1, Article 2 - the right to an education," the ombudsman said.

"As a result, at the time of writing, [the boy] has missed 14 months of education (excluding school holidays) and remains without the provision he is entitled to."

Image source, Cambridgeshire County Council
Image caption,
The ombudsman said the county council's "poor" response to its investigation was a "major concern"

The ombudsman also said the council's response to its investigation had been "disappointing", having failed to provide several documents until March 2022 after a draft report had been issued.

It said the authority should pay the the family £7,000 to recognise the lack of education and special educational needs provision for the boy from September 2020 to February this year, and a further £1,000 for the stress caused.

The ombudsman also said the council should arrange alternative provision for the son until he could return to school.

Michael King, from the LGSCO, said: "I am concerned that throughout my investigation the council has demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of its role in the SEND process and of its legal obligations and duties towards children in the county.

"Additionally, the council's poor response to my investigation is also a major concern.

"I now call upon Cambridgeshire County Council - and the councillors who scrutinise its actions - to reflect upon my report and consider whether this is the way they want services for their most vulnerable residents run in future."

'Significant distress'

The family said they were grateful to the LGSCO, adding: "Finally, we feel listened to.

"This case has taken us a huge amount of time to pursue and continues to cause our whole family significant distress. Unfortunately, we believe this is not an uncommon story.

"We now look to Cambridgeshire County Council to take action on all the report recommendations without further delay."

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: "We understand and accept the judgement, and our chief executive Stephen Moir has made a personal apology to the family.

"We know we could and should have done better. The compensation suggested by the Local Government Ombudsman is being made.

"There is much more that needs to be done to support children with special educational needs and disabilities in Cambridgeshire, which is why it has been made a priority by our joint administration.

"A full plan looking at our progress in addressing the actions identified by the ombudsman in this case will be discussed by the Children's and Young People's Committee in July."

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