Two local authorities have been criticised by a local government ombudsman after failing to provide adequate services for a 12-year-old girl with multiple disabilities and complex needs.
Lambeth council agreed to pay £10,450 and Surrey council £900 following significant gaps, over a two-year period, in providing the one-to-one physiotherapy required by her statement of special educational needs (SEN).
The failure left the girl’s father “uncertain whether, had the treatment been delivered consistently and coherently, his daughter would now be able to walk.”
The girl, Alice*, from Lambeth, has complex needs and severe learning difficulties, as well as epilepsy, visual impairment and mobility difficulties. An SEN tribunal ruled in September 2007 that she was entitled to ‘regular and frequent direct therapy from a qualified physiotherapist for one hour a week,’ and one hour a week hydrotherapy.
But the ombudsman found there was a five-month delay before the physiotherapy was provided and a further gap of four months after the therapist left. There was also “a question as to how much hydrotherapy Alice was receiving over this time and concerns that this was not linked to the physiotherapy provision.”
Two years later Alice moved to voluntary foster care in Surrey. Although Surrey council found a school that it said could meet her needs it did not not ensure that one-to-one provision was made available in addition to weekly hydrotherapy and daily physiotherapy, as specified in her SEN. This resulted in a further gap in provision of over a year.
The ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice by both Lambeth and Surrey councils.
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “We would like to apologise to the family for what must have been a distressing period in their lives.”
He said the delays highlighted by the ombudsman were unacceptable and lessons learned and, where requred, changes made.
A Surrey council spokesman said it accepted the ombudsman’s findings ‘in the main’ but added: “We still consider that at that time we had no reason not to believe that the child’s needs as identified within the statement were being met. This was because the notes of the SEN Annual Review clearly record that she was receiving weekly hydrotherapy and daily physiotherapy. It was only when the carer made contact with us some time later that we became aware that this was not the case and therefore took steps to ensure provision was put in place.”
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