Shropshire Council ordered to pay £3,375 compensation after boy missed out on speech and language support
A boy with autism missed out on speech and language therapy for over a year because of Shropshire Council failings, a watchdog has found.
Shropshire Council has been ordered to pay more than £3,000 in compensation to the family after a report concluded the child had missed out on vital support at a crucial time in his development.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council at fault for incorrectly recording the boy’s need for speech and language therapy in his education, health and care plan (ECHP), meaning he did not receive the support until the error was picked up at the next annual review.
Support was put in place, but was later wrongly cut while the outcome of another review was awaited, the ombudsman said.
The council has apologised and said it was making changes to improve services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The report says the boy, now aged nine, was issued with an EHCP in September 2020. The plan said he should receive weekly speech and language therapy (SALT) sessions, but this was recorded in the wrong section – under health provision rather than education – so no sessions were organised.
In September 2021 the council carried out its annual review of the EHCP and the mistake was identified. The council agreed to commission weekly speech and language therapy, which the boy began receiving in November.
The report says: “The council accepted it had a duty to secure the provision. It did not do this and that is fault.”
A report from his speech and language therapist in July 2022 said the boy required “a continued direct package of intervention”.
But before the start of the next school year, in September 2022, another report was submitted to the council from the NHS which recommended phasing out the sessions.
The council carried out its annual review of the EHCP and proposed amending the plan in line with the NHS report.
The boy’s mother, named in the ombudsman’s report as Mrs X, disagreed with this and complained to the council.
While the new plan was being finalised, the council did not commission the weekly speech and language sessions the boy had received the previous year.
The report says: “When he went back to school in September 2022, the speech and language therapy provision in place from the previous academic year should have continued, until a final amended plan had been issued.
“The council has accepted it was at fault for failing to ensure the provision continued until November 2022.”
The new EHCP was issued in November 2022, but Mrs X was not happy that this had been done before her complaint was resolved.
“It would have been best practice for the council to have issued the final amended plan at the same time as its response to Mrs X’s complaint,” the report says.
The ombudsman found the council’s failings caused “significant injustice” to the boy and his mother.
The report says: “I have noted the council has accepted these faults and apologised.
“However, my view is the council has not adequately addressed the subsequent injustice.
“I have considered the impact on [the boy]. He is a child of primary school age with SEN.
“He has missed out on important SALT support for more than one whole school year at a stage when children are developing essential literacy, numeracy, social and communication skills.
“Mrs X also told me the missed provision had impacted his confidence and development and caused her distress and uncertainty.”
The ombudsman said the council should make a payment of £3,225, which represents £300 for each month the boy missed out on speech and language therapy, excluding school holidays. The report says this should be used for the benefit of his education.
The council was also told to pay a further £150, “in recognition of the distress, frustration and uncertainty Mrs X has experienced”.
The ombudsman added that Mrs X could appeal to a SEND tribunal if she remained unsatisfied with the new EHCP.
David Shaw, the council’s assistant director of education and achievement, said: “We acknowledge and understand the concerns made by the individual and have apologised for any inconvenience and distress this has caused.
“We take the well-being and education of children and young people very seriously and will always work with them and their families to ensure their needs are met.
“We accept the findings from the ombudsman and have responded to the recommendations outlined.
“Through our recently approved SEND Partnership accelerated progress plan, we and our health colleagues are focussed on driving improvements to deliver the best outcomes for our children and young people with SEND.”