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(UK) Leeds: Council ordered to compensate for 'irreparable damage' to autistic student

Dec 22, 2022, Yorkshire Evening Post: Leeds Council told to compensate family of autistic child over 'distressing' education delay https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/politics/council/leeds-council-told-to-compensate-family-of-autistic-child-over-distressing-education-delay-3963258

N. England

Leeds City Council has been told to pay compensation to the family of an autistic child, who claimed disruption to his education caused “irreparable damage”.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said delays in reviewing a specialised education plan for the pupil’s needs had caused his parents “considerable distress”. The council, who also accepted “failures” in its communication with the family, have been ordered to pay £300 [$360] in compensation. And the authority said it was “already taking action” to eliminate delays in the system.

The Ombudsman’s report told how the anonymous pupil, who has an autistic spectrum disorder and other educational needs, did not return to primary school after the first Covid lockdown in 2020. His mum was concerned about him returning to school because an underlying health condition made him vulnerable, but she “had also come to believe the school could not cater for him”, the report said.

The pupil’s mum claimed that a new education, health and care plan (EHCP) for her son, which local authorities have to produce for pupils with special needs, was out-of-date. A long-running dispute over the plan and whether or not the child should return to school then followed, but in November 2021 the council agreed to review the EHCP. The report said this “did not occur”, however.

The Ombudsman added that the child’s mum, “complained formally to the council in February 2022 about a lack of progress with the EHCP process and poor communication. “She said the failure to review the EHCP had caused irreparable damage to (her son),” it added.

The council later accepted “it had been at fault for delay in responding” to the family’s solicitor and also acknowledged, “it had failed to communicate adequately with her due to staff absences.”

In its ruling the Ombudsman said: “It is clear that the delays, along with failures of communication, caused (the pupil’s parents) considerable distress.” It said the council should apologise, pay compensation and write to the parents to offer them a meeting to settle a way forward for their son’s education.

In response to the report, Leeds City Council said: “We are committed to giving every child the best opportunity to achieve their full learning potential. We are already taking action to ensure reviews of EHC plans for children who are not regularly attending school are held without delay, and to ensure children have a dedicated named officer responsible for all aspects of EHC planning review and provision.”

Leeds City Council accepted “failures” in its communication with the family

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