Update: Autism charity slams council education failings

Sarah Lambert
Sarah Lambert
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A leading autism charity has slammed Bucks County Council’s failure to meet the educational needs of an autistic teenager.

The council will pay out £14,500 after local government ombudsman Anne Seex found it did not provide enough education for the 15-year-old boy for almost a year.

National Autistic Society policy head Sarah Lambert said failings were ‘saddening’.

She said: “In modern day Britain, no one, whatever their circumstances, should be fighting for access to education.”

The boy, known as Z, has been looked after by his grandparents since the age of seven. At 13 he stopped attending school because of anxiety related to autism. His GP referred him to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service which told the council he was autistic and would be unable to cope in a mainstream school.

For almost a year the only teaching Z received was 5.5 hours per week from the mental health service. During this period, his grandparents had to take on the task of caring for him almost full time.

Ms Seex found although the council was aware from March 2010 Z had special educational needs, it did not assess these. Nor did it tell his grandmother that she could ask for an assessment. Eventually she found out and requested one. He was assessed in November 2010 and found to need specialist education, but he did not start at a special school until April 2011.

Ms Seex said: “There is no evidence that the council ever tried to establish what education would be suitable for him and what he could cope with in his medical condition.”

She ordered the council to pay £12,405 for Z’s future education. The figure equals the cost of privately educating Z during his ‘missed’ year. The council must also pay the grandparents £2,000 compensation.

Mike Appleyard, Bucks County Council deputy leader and cabinet member for education and skills, said: “Bucks County Council understands the findings of the local government ombudsman’s report. We will be offering an apology and we are also implementing all the recommendations.”

Ms Lambert added: “School can be a challenging experience for children and young people with autism unless the right support is in place, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not entitled to the same access to an education as their non-disabled peers.”