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Cambridgeshire County Council told to pay mum £5,500 after daughter misses out on school for nearly a year





A child with special educational needs in Cambridgeshire missed out on a proper schooling for nearly a full academic year.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been told to pay the child’s mum £5,500 for failing to provide her with suitable education, and for delays of around 19 months in producing her Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan).

The county council said it has apologised to the family and has learned lessons to minimise the risk of anything like this happening again.

Council told to pay mum £5,500 after daughter misses out on school for nearly a year. Stock image.
Council told to pay mum £5,500 after daughter misses out on school for nearly a year. Stock image.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) investigated what took place after the child’s mum, referred to as Ms X, made a complaint.

The Ombudsman said the county council failed to provide suitable education for Ms X’s daughter, referred to as Y, for nearly a full academic year.

Ms X’s daughter had an EHC Plan, which set out what support Y needed.

However, the Ombudsman found there were county council delays of around 19 months in the production of an updated plan, which meant Y’s EHC Plan did not include the most up-to-date information about what support she needed.

A report published by the LGO explained that in July 2021 Ms X contacted the county council to say she wanted to withdraw her daughter from the school she was attending so that she could go to a new school.

However, the authority told Ms X that it considered Y’s school to be a suitable place for her.

Later that year in October Y refused to go to school and her school attendance immediately stopped.

The headteacher of Y’s school told the county council that she could no longer attend the school as it would be a safeguarding risk for both Y and the school.

The school said at the time they would provide a home learning package until the county council found Y a new school. However, the LGO report said this was only provided on one occasion.

The Ombudsman said it was clear when Y’s school told the county council there was a safeguarding risk that Y would be absent for more than 15 days and that therefore it was responsible for her education

The LGO said there should have been a “strategic and planned approach” to reintegrate Y into a mainstream school, but said while some discussions with the school took place, this was not enough.

The Ombudsman said the county council “failed to take any suitable steps” in response to Y’s absence from school until January 2022 when it arranged for alternative education provision beginning the following month, which would give Y 15 hours of education a week.

In March Y’s mother raised concerns that the provider was not suitable to meet Y’s needs.

In May Ms X complained that her daughter was still out of school and that the education provider organised by the county council was not suitable.

The authority partially upheld this complaint about the suitability of the education provider, but said it had not been able to find Y a new school to go to.

The Ombudsman said the county council failed to ensure the education provision it organised was suitable to meet Y’s needs.

In June Ms X stopped the alternative education provision because she said it was not suitable, a position the Ombudsman said was supported by the authority’s response to the previous complaint.

The Ombudsman said the county council then failed to provide Y with any education until September when it organised for a new provider to offer Y some alternative education provision.

Ms X complained to the county council again in October, and the authority said it still had not been able to find Y a suitable school.

In February 2023, Ms X complained again, this time through her MP.

The county council said it was providing “suitable alternative provision” through the second education provider, but was still looking for a school for Y.

The Ombudsman said the county council had tailored the second lot of alternative education to meet Y’s needs, and said it did consider the authority had provided suitable alternative provision for Y until it was able to find her a new school.

The report said Y finally returned to school full-time in September 2023.

The LGO report said: “Since October 2021, Y has missed one-and-two-thirds of a term of education without any educational provision.

“Y also missed a full term without only unsuitable educational provision in place.

“While the council has put in place suitable alternative provision of education for Y from September 2022, alternative provision cannot replace a full-time education in a school setting.”

The Ombudsman told the county council it should apologise to Ms X for its failings and pay her £5,000 in recognition of her daughter’s lost education.

The Ombudsman also said the authority should apologise and pay Ms X £500 to “remedy the injustice” caused by the delay in issuing Y’s final updated EHC Plan, which the LGO said had caused “avoidable and unnecessary distress, inconvenience, and frustration”.

A spokesperson for the county council said: “We accept the Ombudsman’s findings and have apologised to the complainant.

“Incidents such as this are rare, but we have taken on board any lessons learned to minimise the risk of anything similar happening again.”



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