Harefield Gazette

Autistic child misses eight months of school



HOUNSLOW Council has been fined £2,000 after an autistic child wasn’t educated for eight months.

The child was left at home with little help, forcing their family to take unpaid leave from work to homeschool them.

A local government ombudsman report has revealed the child, referred only to as C, could not attend school for medical reasons – but the council didn’t offer them any alternativ­e education between February and October 2020.

The report said: “The fault caused C injustice.

“They are a vulnerable child at a key point in their education and to miss eight months of education is likely to have had a significan­t impact on them.

“It also caused Miss B significan­t stress coping with a distressed child at home for such a long period of time with no alternativ­es offered.”

C, who suffers from anxiety and depression, had started secondary school in 2019, but struggled to settle into their new environmen­t.

Their school had some success educating them away from the main classroom, but by February 2020 they were not attending school at all.

After meetings with mental health service CAHMS, the school agreed to send work home for C and the child was referred to an out-ofschool provider.

In the meantime, Child C was only left with the option of online learning or attending school via videolinks.

In June 2020, Child C’s mother, Miss B, requested a school specialisi­ng in autism, but due to the Covid19 pandemic and school protocols, an assessment was not possible until the autumn term started.

In September, Miss B asked for help from social services and from charities as she was desperate to get C back into education but the council said a referral had been delayed due to the pandemic.

But two specialist schools said they could not offer a place for C and the child did not have any education until March 2021 when they had a home tutor for three hours a day, three days a week. But this too failed.

It was only in May 2021 that Child C was offered a school place for September 2021.

The report added: “We found the council did not provide alternativ­e education for C for approximat­ely eight months.

“We recognise the complicati­ons caused by the COVID-19 pandemic but still consider this fault caused Miss B and C significan­t injustice.

“The council has agreed to pay Miss B and C a total of £2,000. It has already taken action to improve its procedures.”

A Hounslow Council Spokespers­on said: “The council has complied with the decision in this matter and is pleased that the Ombudsman recognised the steps taken to improve relevant processes. The council is committed to ensuring that every child in the borough – who is unable to attend school by reason of illness, exclusion or otherwise – receives an appropriat­e education.”

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