Hertfordshire County Council has agreed to pay £2,000 to the parent of a child with special educational needs, after a delay in him being allocated a primary school.

The child – who has special educational needs and autism – was assessed for an education, health and care plan (EHCP) some months before he had been due to start in Reception in September 2022.

However, the EHCP did not name a school and the boy did not start in Reception until the following March.

Suggested reading

The boy’s parent complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman that as a result of delays and poor communication her son lost almost two terms of education.

Now, on the direction of the Ombudsman, the council has agreed to make a payment of £2,000 to recognise the loss of education, as well as distress, time, trouble and uncertainty.

In her complaint the parent said that the council hadn’t acted on her request to name a specialist school on his EHCP – and that she had not been able to speak to the caseworker about this.

She also complained that the council had not kept in touch after it had consulted with the boy’s eventual school – failing to answer calls or return calls when arranged.

She told the Ombudsman she had suffered distress and anxiety not knowing when her son would be able to begin school and not understanding the cause of the delay.

The Ombudsman’s investigation said there was no record of the council doing "anything in a practical sense" to consider the request for a place at the specialist school, and found they could not show that they adequately considered alternative provision from September 2022.

He also highlighted a five-week delay after receiving a response from the boy’s eventual school.

Following the investigation the Ombudsman has directed the council to apologise to the parent and to make a ‘symbolic’ payment of £2.000.

The council has also been directed to clarify the outcome of its consultation with the specialist school – and whether it proposes to amend the child’s EHCP.

In response to the Ombudsman’s findings, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We take the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s findings very seriously and where they find we have been at fault, we work hard to understand why that has happened, how we can put it right and how we can prevent it happening again.

“We would like to apologise to the family involved in this case.

“We are committed to working in partnership with young people, parents, carers and schools to ensure that all children with SEND and EHCPs in Hertfordshire receive the support they need and deserve.

“There are more than 36,500 children and young people identified in Hertfordshire schools as having SEND.

“Most children and young people with additional needs do not require an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) to access the support they need, as these are for those with the most complex needs, but we have seen a 185% increase in children and young people with EHCPs since 2015.

“We know that we’ve struggled to keep up with that increase and that’s why SEND improvement is a key priority for both the county council and local NHS.

“We understand the issues faced by children, young people and their families in Hertfordshire and have already put in place a strong strategy to address this, including an additional ongoing £5million investment into statutory SEND services and creating 1,000 new SEND school places between 2018 and 2026.”