Council forced to pay mum nearly £6K after kid missed school for a year

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

A council has been told to pay nearly £6,000 to a mum after failing to arrange alternative education for her child, who missed school for almost a year.

Bromley council has been criticised by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman for causing significant stress to a mother while her child was missing school due to anxiety, according to a recent report.

The child’s mum, called Mrs X in the report, had a meeting with Bromley council in May 2022 to say her child had only attended half of her lessons that year, which prevented them from attending school after they started year 9 in September 2022.

The child, named D in the report, was referred to local mental health services by their GP, with Mrs X telling the school and Bromley council her child had been diagnosed with autism.

The council decided in early November 2022 it could not provide alternative education to D as there was no medical evidence as to why they could not attend school. The mother sent the council her child’s private assessments but the authority said it required a medical letter explaining why D could not attend school, and claimed GP letters did not count as evidence.

The authority did, however, agree to carry out an educational, health and care (EHC) plan.

But by mid-January the council had still neither completed its EHC assessment nor responded to several messages from Mrs X about arranging alternative education for D.

The council’s SEND team responded to Mrs X’s complaint about D’s EHC needs assessment and apologised for the delay of five weeks. The council then claimed it still did not have enough medical evidence to grant home tuition.

The council told Mrs X that D would not be issued with an EHC plan in April 2023, 32 weeks after she asked for a comprehensive needs analysis. The ombudsman said in their report that the council was at fault for surpassing the 16 weeks that it was legally required to respond.

The report said the delay caused the family distress and that the authority had not properly considered the information Mrs X gave on D’s individual circumstances.

The ombudsman also told the council to pay the family £5,900 for the three terms D missed between May 2022 and April 2023 and for the distress caused.

The council must apologise to the family and ensure suitable education is in place for D for the 2023/24 school year.

Bromley council was approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.

Pictured top: The Bromley Civic Centre, located in Stockwell Close (Picture: Joe Coughlan)

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