Two Wirral families will receive payments of almost £23,000

Wirral Council has been told to pay almost £23,000 to two families after failings 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 may need if they have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND.)

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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 practices were historical and do not reflect current practice.”