Cambridgeshire County Council pays compensation over school transport failings
A mum has been left “extremely worried” about her son’s development after council failings meant he missed out on nursery and the specialist support he required.
Cambridgeshire County Council has been told to pay the mum more than £5,000 in recognition of the impact of its failings and the distress caused.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) found the authority failed to provide the transport for the child to attend nursery that it was required to.
The LGO also found the county council failed to organise any alternative support or education for the boy while he was out of nursery.
The county council said it accepts the Ombudsman’s findings and has learnt lessons to minimise the risk of something similar happening again.
A report published by the Ombudsman says the mum, referred to as Miss X, made a complaint after her son, referred to as Y, missed out on nursery when the county council failed to organise the transport for him that it was required to.
The report said Y became old enough to attend nursery in December 2022. At this time the county council issued a Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan for him, naming a specific nursery that it said could meet Y’s needs.
The plan also stated that providing transport for Y to attend the nursery was “essential”.
The county council already provided a taxi for Y’s older brother to attend the school where the nursery was based.
However, the school said it did not have the resources to supervise Y in between the start of the school day and the later start of the nursery day.
The county council recognised a separate taxi and chaperone would be required for Y because of this, however, this was never arranged.
Miss X complained to the authority about the delay in the months that followed, but was told the county council was still trying to arrange the transport for Y.
In March 2023 the county council offered a taxi and chaperone for Y to be taken to nursery, but asked for Miss X to accompany him on the way home.
Miss X said she had no way to get to Y’s school in order to accompany him on the way home and so turned down the offer.
Miss X also complained to the county council that she had contacted her caseworker multiple times about arranging Speech and Language Therapy, and Occupational Therapy for Y, specialist support that was stated as being needed in his EHC Plan.
The county council said the caseworker had been on sick leave and it did not have a record of these requests, but apologised for the lack of a response.
The authority also said since Y would be receiving these therapies when he started a specialist school in September 2023, they therefore did not need to be arranged beforehand.
The LGO report said Y began school in September 2023 and that the county council has provided him with transport.
The Ombudsman said the county council was at fault for not providing the “essential” transport required in Y’s EHC Plan, and was at further fault for not arranging any alternative education for him.
The LGO also said the county council further delayed Y receiving any specialist support by not providing a personal budget for the therapies requested by his mum and set out in his EHC Plan, before he started school in September 2023.
The report said: “I find the council at fault for not delivering the provision or taking any steps to satisfy itself that Y was receiving the specialist provision identified in his EHC Plan.
“This has caused an injustice to Y as he has missed out on educational opportunities and experiences that he would have gained.
“By not making the provision accessible, Y has missed out on his progress and development being monitored by professionals within the early years setting.
“This has also caused an injustice to Miss X, who has been impacted by a loss of opportunity having to care for Y when the provision should have been in place and distress at the lack of action by the council.
“Miss X is extremely worried about the potential detrimental impact the fault has had on Y’s development.
“The fact that Y has not received any of the provision he was assessed as needing at a key stage of education puts this case at the higher range of what we would normally recommend as a payment to recognise loss of provision.”
The Ombudsman has told the council to pay Miss X £4,800 to acknowledge the loss of education and the impact this will have had on Y.
The county council has also been told to pay Miss X an additional £500 to acknowledge the “loss of opportunity, distress and impact”, on her and her family.
A spokesperson for the county council said: “We accept the Ombudsman’s findings and are making contact with the complainant to apologise.
“Incidents such as this are rare, but we have taken on board any lessons learned to minimise the risk of anything similar happening again.”