A Dad from Wokingham suffered a 19-month ordeal after the council mismanaged special planning for his son’s education.

Children and adults who require more educational support than mainstream schools and colleges can provide have education, health and care (EHC) plans.

These plans have to be issued within certain deadlines.

But these are not always issued on time, and a dad has been given a payout from Wokingham Borough Council after it took 19 months to issue his son’s final EHC plan.

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He was able to secure the payout after complaining to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSO).

The dad argued that the council failed to conduct EHC reviews in time in 2018 and in two reviews conducted in January and November 2020.

He said the failure to conduct the reviews had a negative impact on his entire  family, and his son’s school failed to support him as it should have done.

The ombudsman investigated his complaint, and found that an EHC review did take place in January 2020, but the dad was never notified about it.

In July, he wrote to the council arguing that it was failing to follow the correct EHC procedure, which requires the council to notify parents if any changes are made to an EHC plan – and give parents the opportunities to view the recommendations and appeal the plan if necessary.

The investigation found that none of this was done, and in August 2020 the council wrote back to the dad blaming high staff turnover, schools sending reports late, and the coronavirus pandemic for the delays in issuing the final EHC plan.

The dad argued that the lack of progress in issuing the EHC plan meant that his son’s school was working to an outdated plan, meaning he was not getting enough educational support.

He also disagreed with the council’s excuse that the pandemic had an impact, as the review had been conducted prior the pandemic, and voiced frustration that he had to fight to get correct information into his son’s EHC plan.

He made an official complaint to the council – but he was unsatisfied with its response and elevated it.

He also sought ombudsman adjudication in August 2020, but was told he needed to wait until the council’s complaint process had been completed.

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Eventually, the council conducted another review of the son’s final EHC plan in November 2020, but the ombudsman investigating found that this final plan had not been issued when they contacted the council about it August and September 2021.

That means the final EHC plan took at least nine months to be issued.

As a result of the investigation, Wokingham Borough Council agreed to pay the dad £250 to remedy the distress, frustration and unnecessary time and trouble he experienced in chasing the council to resolve the concerns revolving around his son’s EHC plan.

The ombudsman requested that the council issue the man’s EHC plan ‘without delay’.

To rectify the problem, the council also promised to put new measures in place when conducting annual EHC reviews and has made ‘systemic changes’ to the review process.

Councillor Graham Howe (Conservative, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe), executive member for children’s services, said: “We have apologised to the family for this.

We truly are sorry for the distress the family have experienced.

“We have improved our internal processes to prevent this happening again and can confirm that the council completed the agreed actions in the final decision, and that evidence of this was sent to the Ombudsman.”

The dad is referred to only as Mr X in the investigation, while his son is anonymised as ‘Mr Y’.

The complaint about the EHC plan in 2018 did not form part of the investigation.