Ombudsman responds to our #ProvisionDenied report with news of a COVID team

Last Friday we published our report #ProvisionDenied, that showed children and young people with SEND have had their needs and education “pushed to one side, for the convenience of the majority.” We approached a number of organisations for comment and included them in the article. We've included them again here below

We also asked for a comment from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who have published previous reports into SEND. The LGSCO again called for an extension of their existing jurisdiction and something new (as far as I'm aware), that indicates they are anticipating a flood of COVID-related complaints in the coming months:

“It is vitally important that children with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families, receive the support to which they are entitled. We have spoken out about this many times in the past, and have issued numerous special reports based on the repeated failings we have seen in the current system, when people bring their cases to us. Even before the current crisis, we were upholding around 91% of the cases we were investigating about Education, Health and Care Plans.

“We have long called for our jurisdiction to be extended to include the actions of schools. Gaining powers over this area would be a significant move to closing a widely-acknowledged area of little accountability, and would enable us to remedy injustice for far more families.

“While it is a little early for us to have received or investigated in detail cases from September, we are alert to the issue and have established a dedicated team to investigate Covid-related complaints once they have completed the local complaint process.

“We are monitoring the complaints we do receive carefully and will publicly flag our concerns, and share any learning from those complaints in due course. Meanwhile, we would encourage parents who have concerns about the level of provision their child is receiving to raise the issue as early as possible with their local authorities, and then bring their complaints to us if they remain dissatisfied.”

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Who can take a complaint to the Ombudsman?

You can complain to the Ombudsman about most areas of council services, including some parts of education and schools (though not academies), children's services including social care, and adult social care. As the quote says, the LGSCO wants its powers extended to be able to include both the actions of schools, and to academies. We support this completely.

With 91% of cases upheld as mentioned, special educational needs far outstrips other areas of Ombudsman investigations. And yet nothing seems to change within local authority practice as a whole. Sick, isn't it?

LAs seem to treat both the Ombudsman and the SEND Tribunal (95% found in favour of parents) as a game. While LAs lose most cases against them that go to a Tribunal appeal or LGSCO investigation, they know very well that most parents either don't know how to complain/appeal, don't have the capacity or the energy to go through the process, or just accept that because the council made the decision, it must be right.

Before you can complain, you must go through the council's own complaints stages and ensure that you are complaining to the right body. You also can't currently get an Ombudsman ruling while a Tribunal appeal is active - and we think this is something that needs to be looked at.

The Ombudsman has a video here about how to complain and factsheets for children's social care, and Education issues for special educational needs, Education Other than at School, Exclusions, School Transport, Schools Admissions, Delayed Entry for Summer born pupils, and infant class sizes. It's a good idea to read previous decisions to get a taste of what can and can't be done. If you're still not sure about whether you can complain about an issue, they have a telephone helpline, limited at the moment because of the pandemic

Watch our short video with the report's headlines

If you haven't read our report yet, you can get a flavour with this very short video. Find the report article here and download the pdf report in full here

What did others say about our report?

We included comments from other organisations who previewed our report, but we think it's worth adding them below as well. Click the one you want to read to enlarge. We've also made the text into a PDF if needed for accessibility

IPSEA comment
This timely report highlights how crucial it is for children and young people with SEND to be prioritised in the coming weeks and months, particularly as so many have not received their full entitlement of provision over the last year. It also illustrates the importance of effective communication with families, with many reporting not knowing whether their child was receiving appropriate provision. Many schools have done an exceptional job of supporting both pupils and families, but there is too much variation from school to school - more research into why this is the case would definitely be welcomed, particularly into the effective leadership of SEND as the report suggests. Alex Grady Whole School SEND
SEND National Crisis Comment
RCSLT Comment
Sense Comment
DCP COmment
NAS comment
contact comment
Anna Kennedy comment
‘During the pandemic, the inadequate support for SEND children has only become worse and worse. We deal with many families who have received zero support for their children’s education and in fact many have found that the intervention they have had from schools etc has only made things worse. The pressure on parents and carers has become unbearable in many cases and this will lead to decreased life chances for SEND children and worsening physical and mental health for them and their parents/carers. Schools and the government must act now to prevent further harm. We fully support the recommendations in this report. If implemented, they will make a significant difference to a very large number of people who have been forgotten during the pandemic. The Disability Union stands in solidarity with all SEND children and their families.’ George Baker, Disability Union
Driver Youth Trust Comment
Ambitious About Autism Comment

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Tania Tirraoro

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