Council ordered to pay £1,500 to mum of young girl left without education for 18 months

Leeds City Council has been ordered to pay £1,500 in compensation to the mum of a young girl, after she went 18 months without education.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman ruled the council had failed in its duties to the child, who has complex needs, after she stopped attending primary school in Year 1.

The council said it accepted the judgement and it was taking action to try to prevent a repeat.

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It comes just two months after the authority was told to fork out more than £7,000 after it was deemed to have “lost control” of a boy’s education, as he spent three years without any schooling.

Civic Hall in Leeds.Civic Hall in Leeds.
Civic Hall in Leeds.

The council has admitted it is struggling to keep pace with demand for education, health and care plans (EHCPs), which authorities are legally obliged to draw up for children with special needs.

In its report on the latest case, the Ombudsman said the young girl, who it referred to as ‘Y’ and described as having “significant needs”, stopped attending her primary school in October 2021.

Despite the school drawing up a reintegration plan, the report said the girl was unable to engage with work sent home and at one stage was “finding it difficult to get out of bed”.

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The council later drew up an EHCP for the young pupil, but took 44 weeks to complete it instead of the required 20.

The Ombudsman said that although there were mitigating factors for the delay, the authority was ultimately “at fault”.

The report said that though the girl was offered a place at a primary school with special provision for children with autism earlier this year, her mum said she needed to be educated at home.

The parent had also requested help from a medical needs tuition service, but the council turned this down as her daughter is “not currently engaged” with children’s mental health services.

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The watchdog said the council needed to “consider again what would be an appropriate offer to have in place for Y”, as she is “not currently attending any of the provision offered to her”.

In its verdict the Ombudsman said the council should pay the girl’s mum £500 for her “distress at the situation”, plus a further £1,000 for the loss of education.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to giving every child the best opportunity to achieve their full learning potential.

“We accept the ruling of the Ombudsman and are already taking action to ensure reviews of EHC plans for children who are not regularly attending school are held without delay, and to ensure children have a dedicated named officer responsible for all aspects of EHC planning review and provision.”