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Hampshire County Council child disability complaints 'disappointing but not surprising'

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DOZENS of complaints lodged against Hampshire County Council have exposed flaws in the treatment of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has published its annual list of upheld complaints for 2021/22, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

HCC had 35 complaints upheld, meaning the LGO sided with the complainant in 83% of cases.

Hampshire County Council
Hampshire County Council

Not only was this higher than the 71% average of similar local authorities, but the vast majority of upheld complaints related to children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

Complaints included delays to education, health and care plans, and issues with home-to-school transport, all leading to children being placed in unsuitable schools or missing out on education.

In one case, a parent pulled their child out of the education system to be home-schooled.

Kirsty Smillie, from the Disability Union, said: "The figures are disappointing but not surprising. It’s something that affects so many families with SEND children and then impacts their education too."

In general, the south-east region had the highest proportion of children and education complaints in the country.

Michael King, from the LGO, said: "The vast majority of councils agree to the recommendations we make and see them as common-sense ways of providing better services for people in their area.

"However this can only happen when councils act swiftly when they have committed to do so.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing some councils taking longer to make those changes, which put them at risk of making the same mistakes again. In 18% of cases we found compliance was late.

"While I welcome the professional way in which the majority of councils continue to work with us, I would urge those authorities who are having problems to pay close attention to this final, but crucial, step in the complaints process."

HCC leader Cllr Rob Humby said the total number of upheld complaints is smaller than previous years, and that the council "welcomes constructive feedback".

HCC deputy leader Cllr Rob Humby (48806344)
HCC deputy leader Cllr Rob Humby (48806344)

He said: "We always work hard to try to get things right first time for Hampshire’s residents and take all complaints very seriously.

"Where we haven’t been able to resolve things directly with the member of the public, we work closely with the ombudsman to remedy any issues and make improvements to our services along the way."

"In view of the number and complexity of the services we deliver to the people of Hampshire and the significant pressures on adult and children’s social care services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – particularly in relation to SEND services where the number of education, health and care plans has increased by more than 180% since 2015, 35 upheld complaints is a small percentage of the total number of interactions we have with the public each year.

"In addition, the county council has invested in additional SEND case workers, and by the end of the summer term we are on track to be achieving a timeliness rate above the national average. Therefore, it’s important to consider these in the wider context."

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