Mid Wales

Council criticised for handling of special needs cases

Nick Bennett
Image caption Ombudsman Nick Bennett said "excellent levels" of customer service were expected

A council has been repeatedly criticised for how it handles children with special educational needs.

Over the past two years the Public Services Ombudsman, Nick Bennett, received nine complaints about Ceredigion council - more than a quarter of the total across Wales.

They included breaches of the code of practice, the council's own complaints policy and ombudsman guidance.

The council said it was working hard with Mr Bennett to make changes.

A spokesman said: "Lessons have been learnt and we are working hard to make sure that the ombudsman's recommendations are fully implemented."

Education inspectors Estyn rated Ceredigion "excellent" in 2013, praising its support for children with extra needs.

But Mr Bennett has ordered the authority to retrain staff and apologise to all parents who were given a form which did not comply with regulations.

'Unacceptable'

In one investigation, Mr Bennett's team found the way the education authority responded to legitimate requests for information to be unacceptable.

The authority prepared a strategy for special educational needs but Mr Bennett found it did not meet legal requirements.

He said: "We've made specific recommendations in every complaint we've dealt with and we need to make sure those recommendations are followed through, that they're fully complied with."


Image caption Tim Pink said he felt the council had put "barriers in the way the entire time"

Tim and Sue Pink's complaint was investigated after their teenage sons travelled to a residential specialist school in Hampshire, which the authority pays for, due to a lack of appropriate schools in Ceredigion.

The ombudsman found the local education authority failed to deal with their needs and delayed implementing decisions.

"It's been a very difficult relationship," Mr Pink said.

"Communication is very poor. And what is theirs [his sons'] by right is never delivered, you have to fight for it. Which has meant we've had to go to tribunal."

The council said it was pleased the ombudsman's report had not raised any concerns with the education provision received by Mr Pink's sons.

It said many of the complaints were the legacy of historic issues, but accepted it should be quicker to respond.

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