Hampshire County Council criticised for 'disappointing' failures in supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities

DOZENS of complaints lodged against a county council have exposed flaws in the treatement of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Monday, 1st August 2022, 3:03 pm

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has published its annual list of upheld complaints from April 2021 to March 2022.

Hampshire County Council had 35 complaints upheld by the ombudsman, meaning they sided with the complainant in 83 per cent of cases.

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Hampshire County Council. Picture: David George

Not only was this higher than the 71 per cent average of similar local authorities, but the vast majority of upheld complaints related to SEND children.

Complaints included delays to education, health and care plans and issues with home-to-school transport, all leading to children being place in unsuitable schools or missing out on their education.

In one case, a parent pulled their child out of the education system to be homeschooled.

Kirsty Smillie from the Disability Union said: 'The figures are disappointing but not surprising.

'It's something that affects so many families with SEND children and then impacts their education too.’

In general, the south east region had the highest proportion of children and education complaints in the country.

Michael King from the LGO said: 'The vast majority of councils agree to the recommendations we make and see them as common-sense ways of providing better services for people in their area. However this can only happen when councils act swiftly when they have committed to do so.

'Unfortunately we are seeing some councils taking longer to make those changes, which put them at risk of making the same mistakes again. In 18 per cent of cases we found compliance was late.

'While I welcome the professional way in which the majority of councils continue to work with us, I would urge those authorities who are having problems to pay close attention to this final, but crucial, step in the complaints process.'

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Rob Humby, said the total number of upheld complaints is smaller than previous years, and that the county council 'welcomes constructive feedback'.

He said: 'We always work hard to try to get things right first time for Hampshire’s residents and take all complaints very seriously.

'Where we haven’t been able to resolve things directly with the member of the public, we work closely with the ombudsman to remedy any issues and make improvements to our services along the way.'

'In view of the number and complexity of the services we deliver to the people of Hampshire and the significant pressures on adult and children’s social care services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – particularly in relation to SEND services where the number of education, health and care plans has increased by more than 180 per cent since 2015, 35 upheld complaints is a small percentage of the total number of interactions we have with the public each year.

'In addition, the county council has invested in additional SEND caseworkers, and by the end of the summer term we are on track to be achieving a timeliness rate above the national average. Therefore, it’s important to consider these in wider context.'