Suffolk mother due thousands in compensation after Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman finds injustices in treatment of two SEND children speaks out over fears for others
A Suffolk mother who is due to receive thousands in compensation after an investigation found injustices in the treatment of her two SEND children has spoken out about her fears for other young people.
Emma Eveleigh complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in 2019 saying she felt her children's education had been dealt with unfairly.
The first investigation looked into the treatment of her daughter, who was diagnosed with autism in May 2019. Mrs Eveleigh complained Suffolk County Council had refused her request for a special educational needs assessment following her diagnosis and failed to provide suitable alternative education for her.
Her daughter became unable to attend school to due to anxiety in September 2019, which she said meant she missed out on education and social opportunities, leaving her feeling isolated. Mrs Eveleigh also said that she was left stressed trying to educate her daughter from home.
Analysis by the ombudsman found Suffolk County Council should have provided an alternative for the child and was wrong in thinking she would only be entitled to the alternative if she had provided medical evidence.
They also found the council also took too long to respond to the complaints and failed to take the opportunity to put matters right even after Mrs Eveleigh had highlighted issues with them.
It was recommended that the council apologise to Mrs Eveleigh and pay £2,000 compensation, plus £300 for her time.
A second investigation into the treatment of her son, who also has autism, was carried out by the ombudsman and a final decision delivered on December 8.
Mrs Eveleigh said that the council failed to provide him with suitable education from March 2019 to July 2020 and failed to find a new school placement for him as mainstream schooling no longer fit his needs.
She also said the school failed to implement changes to his Education, Health and Care Plan as ordered by a previous tribunal and said the council’s failures caused him to miss out on suitable education.
Investigation by the ombudsman found Mrs Eveleigh's son was offered limited online learning in maths and English and five hours a week of one to one tutoring.
However, her son could not access this initially and the report found it was not effectively provided when he could access it.
The ombudsman said this was not considered to be a suitable full time education comparable to the hours and range his peers would receive in school.
The report concluded that the issues caused the boy and his mother injustice as he lost education time and his mother had to spend time and trouble pursuing issues with the council.
Suffolk County Council was told they should apologise for failures, as well as pay Mrs Eveleigh £600 a month for the period from 2 September 2019 to 4 October 2019 when no provision was in place and £300 for each month of inadequate provision, making a total of £3,035, to be used for the benefit of the boy's education.
They were also told they should pay £300 to reflect Mrs Eveleigh's time and trouble.
Mrs Eveleigh told Suffolk News that she is still awaiting an apology, but has been contacted by the council to take bank details for the compensation transfer.
However, the period off school has had a lasting impact on her children and her.
She said: "It was hell to be honest. It was really difficult. My daughter was on a part time timetable at the time so I would be backwards and forwards all the time.
"My husband was working full time and I had to drop hours at work to accomodate and I was also studying for a law degree as well.
She said the period was especially hard for the children, who experienced poor mental health because of it.
"We didn't really feel we had a lot of support. It was really isolating for the kids particularly my son who has communication difficulties," she said.
"It affected their mental health when they were at home and they knew all their friends were at school."
Mrs Eveleigh fears the issues are still occuring in the education system and haven't been appropriately addressed by senior management.
"We called about this to senior management and none of them stepped in to do anything about it," she said.
"I think it is still happening to other children. There are still children in Suffolk who will be struggling in the same way."
A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said it apologised to the families it has let down.
"We accept the rulings of this case and will fully comply with the terms in the report," they said.
“We recognise that some of our provision for children and young people with special educational needs has not been good enough and we apologise to those families we have let down.
“We are working very hard to improve this and while we accept that some change will take time, we are prioritising this work and have seen improvement already.”