Apology made after investigation finds Suffolk County Council failed to provide occupational therapy for a SEND child

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Suffolk County Council has made a formal apology and paid compensation following an Ombudsman investigation.

Suffolk County Council has made a formal apology and paid compensation of £6,350 to a family of a child with special educational needs after an Ombudsman 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. The complaint, dating back to 2020, 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. Without this support, the report said, the child’s mental health deteriorated and the child became unable to stay in mainstream schooling.

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 are being urgently implemented.

SEND services in Suffolk are currently undergoing a wide-scale reform to improve provision. This all-encompassing programme of reform was implemented from September 2021 and progress includes significant new recruitment, increased SEND budget, the provision of 879 extra special school places and strengthened communication practises, and improvement is being seen. At a national level, a recent Government Green paper concluded that the current national SEND system is not performing well, and is consulting on proposals for reform.

In the report, the Ombudsman recognised the extent of work ongoing by Suffolk County Council to improve the way SEND provision is delivered, and welcomed the commitment to widespread review and reform.

Allan Cadzow, Corporate Director for Children and Young People, Suffolk County Council, 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 Ombudsman has given the council four months to complete the recommendations made. The case, and the progress made, will be reviewed by Suffolk County Council’s Audit Committee on September 15, 2022.

It is the council’s duty to ensure the delivery of the provision set out in the Education, Health and Care plan even when this is provided by partners.

Read more information about the complaint and recommendations here.