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Wirral Council apologizes and pays £23,000 compensation for education failings – Birkenhead News

Wirral Council has had to pay almost £23,000 to two families after failures meant their children missed school.

Two recent decisions of the Local Ombudsman (LGO) have admitted complaints against the local authority, criticizing it for delays and poor communication in providing support to families who have children with special educational needs.

For one family, the council was ordered to pay £7,800 in total, while another family was awarded a total of £15,190 for the “distress” and “injustice” caused.

Because the family had paid a total of £15,190, the council failed to issue a final education, health and care plan over several years, with poor communication and delays causing “significant uncertainty, stress and frustration for the family”. This plan, sometimes called an EHCP, identifies what educational, health or social needs a child might need if they have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

The council considered the complaint and accepted the blame, but the mother, referred to as Mrs X, asked the LGO to review what the council proposed as a remedy for what had happened. The issues first arose after the council failed to release a decision letter and final EHC plan in March 2021.

The inquiry also found that between January and September 2022 there was “a lack of action, contact and administrative errors” by the council, and an independent adviser contacted the council on behalf of the council “expressing serious concerns” that the child, called Y, he had been offered a sixth form place through his family, not the council.

There were further delays and a final plan was issued in January 2024, almost three years later. When asked how they would prevent similar situations from happening again, Wirral Council told the LGO: “Some of the practices were historical and do not reflect current practice.”

This included an extra £600,000 being given to it to recruit more staff to its SEND team, changing case management “to ensure easier and more accurate record keeping for staff” and changing the structure of the team to provide more stability and consistency of family staffing’ and ‘ensure clearer case accountability going forward’.

However, the council was praised for offering an additional £500 remedy to the family and providing support from autumn 2023 until early 2024, when the final decision is made. It said the council had also taken “wide-ranging measures” to improve services and “help prevent future recurrence of wider failures”.

However, the Ombudsman said there were grounds for a further complaint against the council for further delays following meetings held in June 2023. The LGO ordered the council to apologize again, pay Mrs X £15,190 and- reimburse him for the tuition he paid for her. the son.

Because the family paid £7,800, Wirral Council was found at fault for failing to sort out the school offer and complete an annual assessment as part of the EHCP. This case involved a grandson who had been out of school since March 2023 after the school he attended could not meet his needs.

His grandmother said this causes him “distress and isolation to avoid because he doesn’t go to school”. It also had an impact on the wider family, who had to change their working hours to care for their grandson, describing it as “sometimes like passing ships in the night”.

The local Ombudsman investigates complaints against public organizations such as councils, social care providers and hospital trusts. In this case, the board admitted all complaints and was found guilty of non-judgment. It also found the board knew the grandson had not received the education outlined in his plan.

The LGO ordered the council to apologise, complete the annual assessment, meet the family to allow the grandson to start school and make payments totaling £7,800. Within three months, SEND staff will have to receive training, provide parents with alternative staff contact numbers and introduce new procedures.

A Wirral Council spokesman said: “We accept the findings in both cases and apologize to the two families concerned and pay the compensation indicated by the Ombudsman.

“The local authority recognizes and takes extremely seriously its duty to enable alternative provision for children who cannot attend school. Like many local authorities, the provision of SEND has been a particularly challenging area for the council in recent years and considerable effort has been – and continues to be – invested in efforts to provide high quality services for children and young people in need. they.

“As one of the Ombudsman’s decisions acknowledges, there have been ‘wide-ranging steps the Council has taken recently to improve the standard of its services and learning’ and that the Ombudsman said it was ‘satisfied that these actions are appropriate to prevent the future recurrence of defects”. While the council is not yet where we need to be, changes are being implemented to put the authority on track to deliver the services families want and expect.”

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