Bucks Council ordered to pay autistic child for causing 'avoidable distress'

The council has agreed to pay the charge after an independent arbiter criticised its ‘poor’ communication
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Buckinghamshire Council has been ordered to pay an autistic child who has anxiety for the ‘distress’ it caused by misgendering him.

The council was found to be at fault after its ‘poor’ communication with Ms X and her son Mr Y, who had an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

A report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said the council had failed to meet deadlines and that Mr Y had been out of education with ‘limited alternative provision in place’.

Bucks CouncilBucks Council
Bucks Council

Ms X said that since 2019, the council had failed to listen to her and Mr Y about what support he needed, consult them about changes to his EHCP and agree a personal budget for her son’s needs.

The council has apologised to the family for the ‘injustice’ and has agreed to the ombudsman’s recommendations.

Ms X originally asked for £43,000 to home educate Mr Y, but the council refused this in part due to it ‘not being an efficient use of resources’.

The report found that the council missed an opportunity to ensure Mr Y’s EHCP was suitable for him and reflected all his needs after the council did not respond to her request that her son be reassessed in April 2023.

The ombudsman said: “This caused Ms X avoidable frustration and distress as she felt that Mr Y’s EHCP did not meet all of his needs.”

In March 2022 and March 2023, the council did not give Ms X an opportunity to comment before it issued Mr Y’s final amended EHCP, which was found to be at fault.

The council also used a wrong name and gender when referring to Mr Y in letters to Ms X about his EHCP.

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The ombudsman said: “This has contributed to Ms X and Mr Y feeling not being listened to and falls below the good administrative practice we would expect from the council.”

The council has been asked to pay Ms X £400 in for ‘avoidable distress’ caused by its delay in considering her personal budget request and failing to ask her for comments on the EHCP.

It must also pay Mr Y £100 for the ‘avoidable distress’ he experienced due to the council referring to him by the wrong name and gender.

The council’s cabinet member for education and children’s services Anita Cranmer said: “The council notes the ombudsman’s findings and apologises to Ms X and Mr Y for any shortfalls in managing this case.

“We know that alongside making these assessments that it’s critical the family is kept informed at every step and we endeavour to do that in all of these cases; we are sorry that in this instance Ms X was not always adequately communicated with about her son’s EHC plan.

“We are implementing the ombudsman’s requested actions in full and have added in further checks and balances to our processes to aim to avoid this happening again.”