‘Extremely anxious’ Bromley boy who ran away from school wasn’t found suitable education for 9 months

By Staff

A mum has been awarded £3,500 from Bromley Council after the authority reportedly failed to provide appropriate education to her son for nine months. The council was criticised in a recent Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman report for its delay in issuing an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan for a child.

The report stated that the mum’s son began having issues with school in October 2022 and he stopped attending full time. She said she tried to keep him in school for at least an hour a day but his extreme anxiety caused him to run away. The family’s GP reportedly provided a sick note and the child’s school made a referral to the council to arrange alternative provision.

The outreach report service from the council was said to have worked alongside the child, called B in the report, to help alleviate his anxiety but the impact was minimal. B’s attendance continued to drop despite ‘exceptional levels; of support. Bromley Council then received a request for an EHC needs assessment at the end of December that year after receiving information on the child’s poor attendance.

The authority reportedly made initial requests for information at the end of January 2023 but did not request health information until early April, which was beyond the statutory six week timescale. This was due to the council not allocating an educational psychologist (EP) to the case until March 17, when they were then given six weeks to finish their report.

READ MORE: ‘Filthy’ part of London plagued with fly-tipping to be hit with higher fines

The mum, named Miss X in the report, was said to have contacted the council on several occasions at this time to ask for an update. The council responded in early April to say it was due to make a decision on an EHC plan on April 9, but stated this may be delayed until April 28 and acknowledged this was three weeks beyond the statutory deadline.

Despite most of the requested information being obtained within the required timeframe, the response from the EP was not provided until May 3. Miss X contacted the council the next day to ensure the process would continue given all necessary information was now available. The council decided on May 11 to issue an EHC plan for the child.

The mum sent the authority an occupational therapy report on May 19 and a speech and language therapy report on June 28. Bromley Council responded the next week with a draft EHC plan. Miss X claimed she then made requests several times in July and September to meet with the council to discuss the draft EHC plan but the council failed to accommodate this.

The parent also requested amendments to the plan in July and August and asked why a meeting had not taken place. The authority issued a second version of the plan on August 11 and Miss X asked the authority to not publish the final plan until a meeting had taken place. However, the authority told her it would be issuing the final plan, which was published on September 14.

‘Schools that responded couldn’t meet his needs’

Miss X appealed the decision to publish the plan in November 2023 as she was not happy with its content. She claimed the council had not met its legal obligation to provide her son with full time education. The ombudsman said in their report that a response from the authority in September 2023 made no reference to any action taken by the council when it became aware of B’s poor attendance.

The authority claimed to the ombudsman that it had made attempts to find alternative education for B but all those who responded claimed their institution could not meet his needs. It added that Miss X had previously accepted her son would be returning to the same primary school at the start of the academic year in September 2023 and a high banding of funding would be used to support B at this school.

The ombudsman criticised the council for issuing the final EHC plan nine months after accepting the initial request, which was beyond the required 20 week timescale. They added that they felt the delay was not solely due to the council as Miss X reportedly presented information late and asked the authority to delay issuing the final statement.

They said in the report: “While I can appreciate the council wanted to work with Miss X and ensure she was able to submit her views about her son’s education, the statutory duty sits with the council and it should ensure EHC plans are issued within 20 weeks.”

Bromley Council was instructed by the ombudsman to apologise to Miss X and B. It was also told to pay the mum £3,500 in recognition of the distress caused and for the two terms of education B lost between January and September 2023.

Council ‘sometimes struggles when the available resources….are insufficient’

A Bromley Council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Bromley Council has cooperated fully with the ombudsman’s investigation and agreed with the proposed remedial action, with other work previously actioned already as the ombudsman has acknowledged.”

They added: “The council is committed to providing every child in its borough with the best possible education but sometimes struggles when the available resources, both from within the council and outside agencies, are insufficient to provide the service we would wish to the ever-growing numbers of families seeking support. This is the same for every other local authority across the country with responsibility for supporting children with SEND, as recognised by the ombudsman’s own data and reports.”

Have a story that you want to share? Email [email protected].

Don’t miss out on the biggest local stories. Sign up to our MySouthLondon newsletter HERE for all the latest daily news and more.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *