Sheffield Council promises to do better after failing to support girl with learning difficulty

Sheffield City Council agreed to apologise, pay almost £1,000 and improve services after it failed to secure speech and language therapy for a young person with special educational needs.

In February, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman upheld a complaint after ruling the complainant’s daughter missed out on the support she was entitled to receive.

Ms X’s daughter, Z, had a learning difficulty and had an education, health and care (EHC) plan which sets out their needs and what arrangements should be made to meet them, the ombudsman’s report said.

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According to the report, on February 1 in 2023, Z was promised to receive two sessions with a speech and language therapist in each half-term. While she had a session on February 2 she, the report added, had no speech and language therapy until November 24, of the same year.

When her mum told Sheffield City Council Z had not given the number of therapies set out in her plan, it said it was the responsibility of the local NHS service to arrange – and offered to send her complaint directly to them.

The report said: “The council chased the NHS service regarding the speech and language provision during this time.”

However, Ms X declined to have her complaint forwarded to the NHS service.

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She said this was listed in Z’s plan, “so the council was responsible for delivering it”.

The council had then heard back from the service saying “the sessions had not been delivered due to lack of capacity”.

She had been apologised to by the council (for the frustration caused) and offered to make a complaint to the ombudsman, the report said, and she made a complaint last June.

The report said: “By this time, the council had again chased the NHS service but it still could not put the provision in place.

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“Z continued not to receive any of the speech and language therapy in her EHC plan up until November 24, 2023, when she received one session.”

The ombudsman found that Z should have received 10 sessions of therapy between February 1 and November 24. She had two.

The ombudsman also said that the council “wrongly” said that the provision was the NHS’s responsibility.

The ombudsman added: “The council had a non-delegable duty to ensure Z received this therapy as it was listed in Section F of her EHC Plan.

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“The council did not take sufficient action to secure the provision in Z’s EHC plan. This was fault.

“This fault caused Z to miss out on provision which she required to develop her communication and social skills. The fault also caused Ms X a period of frustration and distress.”

The report finished by saying within one month of the date of the final decision, the council has agreed to apologise to Ms X, pay her £850 and £100 for each session of speech and language therapy that Z missed out on, and continues to miss out on, from 24 November 2023 up to three months after the date of the final decision on the case.

Also, the council agreed to review its commissioning arrangements with regard to speech and language therapy to ensure it can secure this type of therapy when it is set out in its children’s and young people’s EHC plans.

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