Families of SEND children receive £32,000 in payouts after complaints
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Families in Suffolk with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) children have received more than £32,000 in compensation in the past year.
The payouts follow ombudsman investigations into Suffolk County Council's SEND complaints by campaigners.
Freedom of Information figures indicated Suffolk County Council had to pay £32,048.40 in financial remedies across 14 Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman cases between March and the end of December.
That compares to £5,735 across five cases in 2020/21, and just over £13,000 each in the two years prior to that over nine cases each.
Around two thirds of the financial costs were for a lack of provision or education.
A further 20 cases are still with the ombudsman which may require a financial remedy, according to the published documents.
The request was lodged by the Campaign for Change (Suffolk SEND) group – a collective of 570 parents and carers who have lobbied for improvements in the service.
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A spokesperson from the group said: “The county council has consistently said that it has made improvements to SEND; however, today we can see that the truth is that they continue to fail to meet their statutory duties and things are getting worse.
“As recent rulings by the Local Government Ombudsman show, the council keep failing to have due regard for their statutory duties. However, these complaints are but the tip of an enormous iceberg of injustice. Only a few parents have the resources to push their complaints this far – most are fobbed off much earlier in the system.
“Our members continue to report that the council fails to follow its statutory duties at all stages of the process for providing SEND support, whether that is refusing needs assessments, failing to carry them out on time or simply failing to provide the therapies and additional help these vulnerable children need and are entitled to by law."
The county council has formed an action plan to address concerns in the SEND service after a report by peers in Lincolnshire exposed a series of failings.
Rachel Hood, cabinet member for SEND, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “We accept there have been some failings in the way we have delivered education to children and young people with additional needs.
“That failure is evident with the number of historic complaints that are upheld by the ombudsman, but we are committed to improve the way we do things.
“We are currently undertaking a significant overhaul of our SEND services. This improvement programme is thorough, detailed and wide-reaching, and follows the findings of an independent review of the way we deliver some SEND provision by Lincolnshire County Council and their associates."