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Council pays out £4,300 to student for lack of speech therapy in Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire County Council has agreed to pay out £4,300 to a college student – after failing to provide her with speech and language therapy.

According to an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman the student should have received the speech and language support, as detailed in her Education Health and Care Plan.

According to the complaint, the student had not received the speech and language provision for more than three years. In the wake of the Ombudsman’s investigation, the county council has now agreed to pay the student £4300 – equivalent to £100 for every month since September 2020.

The council has also agreed to arrange for a speech and language assessment for her “without delay”.

And if that assessment finds further speech and language therapy is necessary, the council will make monthly payments of £100 – every month – until the first session is delivered. If the assessment finds the support is no longer necessary, the council will pay the student £100 a month until a decision is made.

According to the Ombudsman’s report, the student – who had complained that the council had not arranged any speech and language therapy since February 2020 – moved to a college in a different area in September 2020.

When she complained a year later (September 2021) that she had not received the therapy, the council provided her with £700 to cover the missed provision. That was to cover the period until January 2022 when new provision was due to be arranged.

When no provision was then put in place the student complained again in June and August 2023. The council then apologised – saying that it should have arranged alternative speech and language provision from September 2020.

The council also offered a further £300 for lost provision and £100 to recognise the trouble taken to complain, as well as the distress it caused. They said, in August 2023, a new assessment would be arranged.

However according to the Ombudsman’s report in February 2024 that assessment had not yet been organised. During the investigation the Ombudsman says the council had suggested that a report had suggested speech and language therapy was no longer required- and should not have been included in the EHCP.

The ombudsman said this bought into question the adequacy of the annual reviews for the students EHCP. Pointing to the matter being raised “repeatedly” with the council, the report states that this demonstrates the council has allowed the matter to “drift significantly”.

She says that during this period the loss of provision “is likely to have had a detrimental impact” on the student’s progress. In addition to the financial payment, the report says that the council has agreed to review its annual review process of EHCPs.

Following the publication of the Ombudsman’s report a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council pointed to the increase in the number of children with EHCPs.

He highlighted ongoing investment and the planned increases in specialist school places.

“We take the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s findings very seriously and where they find we have been at fault, we work hard to understand why that has happened, how we can put it right and how we can prevent it happening again,” said the county council spokesperson.

“There are more than 36,500 children and young people identified in Hertfordshire schools as having SEND.

“Most children and young people with additional needs do not require an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) to access the support they need, as these are for those with the most complex needs, but we have seen a 223% increase in children and young people with EHCPs since 2015.

“We know that we’ve struggled to keep up with that increase and that’s why our SEND improvement is a key priority for both the county council and local NHS.

“We understand the issues faced by children, young people and their families in Hertfordshire and have already put in place a strong strategy to address this, including an additional ongoing £7million investment into statutory SEND services and expanding the number of new SEND school places by 1,000 between 2018 and 2026.”

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