East Sussex County Council has been told to pay several thousands of pounds in compensation for failing to provide education to a 15-year-old boy with autism and ADHD. 

In a recently published decision, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman told the authority to apologise and provide £5,100 of financial compensation for its failure to provide any education provision for the boy between May 2023 to January 2024.

The council took the boy off his school’s roll in August 2021, where the ombudsman said he had only attended “sporadically”. 

The boy then began to receive one-on-one tutoring provided by the council’s Interim Provision Service (IPS).But the ombudsman said he struggled to engage with these sessions and many sessions were also cancelled at his mother’s request.

In March 2022, his mother, referred to in council reports as Miss X, requested a pause in the sessions due to a deterioration in his mental health and a change in medication. 

The council continued to make the sessions available and the tutor continued to try to make contact with them. However, in May 2023 the service was cancelled as the council said it could not continue to provide a service the boy was not engaging with. These tutoring sessions did not resume until January 2024. 

The ombudsman said they had not seen sufficient evidence to show the council properly considered whether the alternative education provision was accessible to the boy from May 2022 onwards.

In their decision notice, the ombudsman referred to the boy as Z. The ombudsman wrote: “The council’s duty is to provide a full time education that is accessible and available. 

“There is no definition of full time and it would be acceptable to offer a reduced number of hours where a child could not cope with more. I am satisfied the council provided alternative education from August 2021 to May 2023. However, it cancelled the IPS in May 2023 and no provision was made available until January 2024. This is fault.” 

The ombudsman added: “All parties accept Z needs to be in a school setting. The council considers his needs can be met at a mainstream school and Miss X considers a special school setting would be more suitable. 

“Despite the best efforts of the council in consulting more than 20 education settings, it has not been able to secure a place for Z since August 2021. 

“This amounts to service failure and is an ongoing issue. The failure to provide a suitable school setting has caused Miss X and Z significant distress and uncertainty for a prolonged period.”

In light of the fault, the ombudsman told the council to provide Miss X with a symbolic payment of £1,500 in recognition of the “prolonged and significant distress she experienced. The ombudsman also told the council to make a further payment of £3,600 to be used for the benefit of Z, in recognition of his loss of education provision from May 2023 to January 2024.

An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “We accept the findings of the ombudsman and have apologised to Miss X. All the actions required have been taken and the deadlines given by the LGSCO have been met.”