Bristol City Council failed to provide lessons to girl with special educational needs for months

The girl, who is anonymous, stopped attending school after suffering anxiety because it was not meeting her needs. Credit: PA images

Bristol City Council has apologised and paid £3,800 compensation to the parents of a girl with special educational needs after failing to provide her with lessons for seven months.

She stopped attending school after suffering anxiety because it was not meeting her needs.

The watchdog has now ruled that the local authority did not fulfil its legal obligation to ensure she continued her learning from April to October 2021.

The Local Government Ombudsman upheld a complaint by the child’s father, referred to as Mr B, and told the council to pay compensation.

It also told the council to tighten up its processes to ensure deadlines to publish education, health and care plans (EHCPs) are not breached.

Instead of producing the girl’s plan within the 20-week statutory deadline, it took more than a year, causing “significant injustice”.

The council says improvements have been made to its systems for EHCPs as well as communication with families of SEN children.

Bristol City Council paid £3,800 compensation following the ruling by the watchdog Credit: BPM Media

The ombudsman’s report said: “Clearly the council did not comply with the 20-week timescale given Mr B asked for an EHCP for his daughter in October 2020 and the council did not issue the final EHCP until October 2021, more than 12 months later.

“It is clear from the EHCP the council has issued, that Mr B’s daughter is entitled to significant support as a result of her special educational needs.

“I am therefore satisfied as a result of delay by the council, Mr B’s daughter has missed out on special educational needs provision for around seven months longer than she should have."

The council agreed to the ombudsman’s recommendations including “reviewing its procedure to ensure it can identify when production of an EHCP is approaching the 20-week date to ensure timescales are not breached”.

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “The council acknowledges and accepts the findings of the report.

“There continues to be a concerted effort to improve the timeliness and quality of contributions across health, social care and education to EHC needs assessments.

“We regularly review our practice and have improved our communication with our families who are going through the EHC needs assessment process as a result.

“Other co-production development on this area of work has been taking place over the last two years and the implementation is now underway which includes electronic professional contributions for timely contributions and a new EHC plan template for a child centred plan will now be produced.”

Credit: Local Democracy Reporter Service/Adam Postans