Suffolk council pays out after autistic child from Lowestoft was left without support for two years

A council has paid out thousands of pounds after a family of a child with special educational needs (SEND) was left without support at school for two years.

Suffolk County Council has made a formal apology and paid compensation of £6,350 to the family of a young girl with autism after an ombudsman's investigation found the council did not provide occupational therapy.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman carried out a review after a complaint was made by the parent of a child with SEND from Lowestoft in 2020. 

The mother of the child said she experienced "anxiety and distress" knowing that her daughter's mental health was deteriorating due to the lack of support she was getting.

The complaint, which dates back to 2020, is related to the council’s failure to ensure that the child received occupational therapy support set out in the child’s Education, Health and Care plan.

The report into the failings said: "She has had to put considerable time and effort into contacting the council about the provision and making her complaints.

"The unsatisfactory answers she received caused her frustration and resulted in her complaining to us."

Without this support, the report said, the child’s mental health deteriorated and the child became unable to stay in mainstream schooling.

The report said that it was the council's "fault in failing to recognise the duty to make the provision" for the child.

As a result of this investigation, the council has paid compensation and issued a formal apology.

The ombudsman also made four recommendations relating to the way Suffolk County Council delivers SEND services, which the council say "are being urgently implemented".

Suffolk County Council said it was "undergoing a wide-scale reform to improve provision."

Allan Cadzow, corporate director for children and young people said: “We regret that we were not able to secure the provision for this child and are sorry for the distress this has caused.

“Lessons have been learnt from this report and we have begun to implement the recommendations made by the ombudsman.

“We recognise the challenges we face within Suffolk’s SEND provision and that is why we have embarked on a substantial and all-encompassing programme of reform.

"This is not an easy feat, especially against the backdrop of a troubled national system, however, we are confident in our plans and are steadfast in our determination to improve the way we do things.”

The council has said that since September it has increased the SEND budget and added 879 extra special school places.

The report did recognise the extent of work ongoing by Suffolk County Council to improve the way SEND provision is delivered.