A mum who was denied special needs education for her son is to get council compensation after enduring an ordeal she compared to being "in lockdown again".
Teresa Kanso, 41, took the case to the local government ombudsman after her 14-year-old son Zain was unable to secure a full-time school place.
Now she is to get £5,000 because it took West Northamptonshire Council 14 months to find him a full-time place after his previous special needs school could not meet his needs.
Miss Kanso, from Weedon Bec in Northamptonshire, said she wanted the council to take responsibility for its failings and to highlight the problem, which is one faced by many SEND families.
She said: “I felt very isolated, I felt like there was no support, I felt like we were stuck, I felt like we were in lockdown again.
"I’m a single parent to my two children and there was no way out of this black tunnel. It’s felt, at times, that our family was broken, because he wasn’t getting supported, he wasn’t getting what he’s entitled to by law.”
After initially complaining to West Northamptonshire Council, Miss Kanso took her complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
It found that the council was at fault, both in failing to provide suitable education for Zain, and in its communication with Miss Kanso.
Her complaint was upheld and the council was ordered to pay her £5,000.
Zain was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, ADHD and anxiety from 2017-2019. He also has autistic traits.
He went to On Track education complex needs school until around April 2021 but it could no longer support his needs.
The school helped Zain get half-day placements on a farm and pottery sessions but West Northamptonshire Council was unable to find a full time SEND school placement for around 14 months.
Miss Kanso complained to the council and took her complaint to the ombudsman in March 2022.
She said: “I didn’t go to the ombudsman to see if I could get some kind of compensation money - my main thing about going to the ombudsman was to have the failings published, because I believe, unless parents do do the two complaints processes at the council, then go to the ombudsman, then failings won’t come out, things won’t be published and then I can’t see change happening.”
West Northamptonshire Council said it acknowledged the findings in the report and apologised for the distress caused to the family.
"We accept the service received was not to the standard that we hope to provide and are working hard to address the challenges outlined," added a spokesman.
The authority said with demand rising it was working on an action plan that would see a significant increase in special educational needs places.
Zain was found a full-time SEND school place in Leicestershire at The Grange Therapeutic School by the council in December 2022.
He said he was glad to be back at school.
“It was very difficult, I didn’t have any friends and I was struggling. I was eating a lot and just getting bored, wanting to buy things and random stuff, but now I feel a lot healthier and a lot stronger now I’m in school," he said.
The ombudsman's report stressed that councils must arrange suitable education at school or elsewhere for pupils who are out of school because of exclusion, illness or for other reasons, if they would not receive suitable education without such arrangements.
It commended the council for accepting its failings and making a financial offer to Miss Kanso, but pointed out that its communication with her had fallen short.
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