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(UK) Surrey: Autistic boy awarded $11.8K for missing out on over a year of school

Aug 24, 2022, Surrey Live: Surrey County Council must pay £10,000 [$11,800] to family of autistic boy who's missed school for over a year https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surrey-county-council-autistic-compensation-24832201

SE England Surrey County Council has been instructed to pay more than £10,000 to the family of an autistic boy from West End who has been unable to attend school since in-person teaching resumed in March 2021. After taking their case to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO), their complaint was upheld and the council was told to pay compensation, apologise to the family and take steps to ensure that similar issues did not happen in the future.

Amy Turton told SurreyLive that her son Luke Alexander, who was 7 at the time and is now 8, had enormous anxiety about returning to school after the coronavirus lockdown in early 2021, as he had lots of trauma from special educational needs (SEN) that she feels were not properly met by Bisley C of E Primary School, where he was a pupil. After several meetings with the school they tried to send him back on a reduced timetable, but it soon became clear that it wasn't working.

She said: "He went back in for three weeks but it was just clear that it was becoming really traumatic for him to be in that environment. He never made it more than two and a half hours, and even that was a massive struggle."

By that point the family had already applied to have Luke assessed for an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP), which would have allowed him to have additional assistance in school to help meet his needs. He had been diagnosed in January 2021 with autism spectrum disorder, but the council refused the application and did so again when the family appealed the decision.

By June 2021 Luke was still not attending school and Amy had obtained a letter from his GP saying that he was medically unfit to attend mainstream schools which would not meet his complex SEN. She said that the council then engaged in conversations with the school about whether it could meet his needs but that the issue remained unresolved for many more months.

In August 2021, Amy complained that the council was not meeting its statutory duty to provide education for her son, and in November a tribunal found that Luke should have been assessed for an EHCP. The family escalated their case to the LGO, which found in their favour in March this year. By this time Luke had been out of school for a full year and the family had outlaid thousands of pounds in providing alternative educational activities for him at home.

"Had we not been in a position where we were able to fund things for him ourselves, he just wouldn't have had any education at all," Amy said. "The fact that he was provided with absolutely nothing from the local authority for over a year is just appalling. Although it's great that we got some money back, we shouldn't have had to go to those lengths to get the council to pay for something that it was their duty to pay for anyway."…

A Surrey County Council spokesperson said: "We take the findings from the Ombudsman very seriously and we apologise for any distress the family experienced. We recognise that there are significant challenges around delivering support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), exacerbated by the pandemic, and we are committed to improving outcomes for these children so that they are happy, healthy, safe and confident about their future….

Amy Turton with son Luke Alexander, 8, who has been unable to attend school for over a year (Image: Amy Turton)