County council working ‘not to repeat mistakes again’ following ombudsman’s investigation

West Sussex County Council has made swift progress in meeting a number of recommendations laid at its door following an investigation by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman.

County Hall Chichester. Pic S Robards SR2105051 SUS-210505-160545001
County Hall Chichester. Pic S Robards SR2105051 SUS-210505-160545001

In June, the council apologised after a boy missed out on social care because he had the ‘wrong’ type of disability.

A report from the ombudsman said the boy, who has foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, was prone to volatile outbursts due to his condition.

He was excluded from school in February 2020 but was due to start at a specialist school this month.

When his adoptive parents asked the council to assess him for respite care and financial help, they were told he wasn’t eligible as he did not have a severe learning disability or autism alongside a moderate learning disability.

Following a complaint from the family, the ombudsman launched an investigation and found the council to be at fault.

It laid out a number of recommendations for the council to look into within one month, three months and six months.

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During a meeting of the standards committee on Friday (September 17), members were told that this was well in hand.

Complaints manager David Tominey said the first two deadlines had been formally responded to on time and evidence had been sent to the ombudsman showing that the third had also been met, three months ahead of schedule.

The recommendations included making payments totalling £3,050 to the child’s mother, reviewing its assessment process to ensure it meets its duty to all children – not just those who fall under a specific criteria – and completing an audit or review of the educational provision available to children with special educational needs or a disability to ensure there are enough places to meet demand.

Paul Wagstaff, director of education & skills, told the meeting that a paper was being submitted to the executive leadership which laid out a strategy for increasing the range of provision for children with special needs and disabilities.

He predicted the work had the potential to increase the number of places available over the next three or four years.

Mr Tominey said: “Some people might consider the closure of a complaint or the final decision might be the full-stop.

“But the work continues after that so we can have an inward look at what happens operationally and try to make sense of the findings.

“The fact that we’ve agreed with the findings leads us on the right path, I think, to not making those mistakes again.”

The committee agreed that the council and its officers were implementing the recommendations of the report as laid out by the ombudsman.

Elizabeth Sparkes (Con, Cissbury) added: “I think we can agree that this has been a most unfortunate situation for all concerned.”