THE county council has been told to pay a distressed father £500 in compensation for taking five months too long to sort out alternative education for his daughter after she was unable to attend school because of her anxiety and mental health issues.

Worcestershire County Council was ordered to pay the money to the father after taking 26 weeks longer than it should have done to provide a plan for the child’s needs and for failing to find alternative education for the child for four months whilst she was ill and away from school.

The ruling by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said the council should also apologise to the father for the distress caused and for not responding to his complaint within the required time.

By laws, councils are required to produce an education, health and care (EHC) plan – which describes a child’s special educational, health and social care needs and explains the extra help – within 20 weeks.

“The council’s delay caused [the] family significant distress and the time and trouble they went to in chasing the council and complaining,” the ombudsman said in a report to the council.

Whilst the council had responded to the father’s first complaint within the required 20 days, it took four months to respond to his second complaint rather than the required 25 days, the ombudsman said.

The child was offered one-to-one and small group work as an alternative but her condition worsened when she was told she would be the youngest person in the council’s Medical Education Team (MET) unit and her father refused the offer.

The child’s school requested an assessment in March 2019 but when the plan was produced, the child’s parents raised concerns. When the father had not heard any updates by mid-October, he complained to the council about the delay and for failing to provide alternative education for more than a year.

The council apologised to the father for the delays and said it was due to the complexity of the case and pressure on staff. The father rejected the apology and complained again.

The council completed the child’s plan in January 2020 which said the child would be supported with learning from home but because of the council’s delay in appointing someone to look at the complaint, the investigation was not completed until March.

The investigation found the council had breached the 20-week limit in which it should have provided the child with a plan but did not uphold the father’s complaint over the council’s failure to provide alternative education.

The independent investigation said the material the council had provided to the father was sufficient and the council’s MET offers were appropriate.