Here some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.

Help me with my Local Government Ombudsman madness

(79 Posts)
inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 09:01:06

Many of you will know the sorry story of my battle with the LGO. I know this is long but it helps me to write it all out!!

I made a complaint about failing to arrange provision in March 2011.

In June 2011, the LGO issues a provisional judgment saying LA had done nothing wrong and I was premature in my complaint.

Within two weeks, LA had determined me a 'vexatious complainant'.

I got them to reopen the case as my son's provision had not been in place as they'd asserted. I also asked them to consider the vexatious determination.

In January 2012, they issued another provisional judgment. This said no maladministration still despite a senior Ass Ombudsman promising to amend this. It was clear that they had written only 2 letters in the 6 months before issuing this new judgment.

We challenged this. I had a leading firm of lawyers on my side acting for free and a charity submitting evidence about the wider implications of their stance. My MP also writes to support me. We asked for someone else to take over.

In June 2012, another investigator issues a final decision. Deeply offensive personal comments are made in an accompanying letter alleging that I had essentially been vexatious to the LGO complaint handler and had been copying people into my emails to her. Completely untrue. I challenge this and she says she no longer has the emails!! Lying cow. Judgment is still deeply flawed so I get lawyers to look at it. Have to transfer to public law specialists and pay. They issue pre action protocol letter.

In September 2012, the LGO withdraw their judgment and say they will issue a new one. No further explanation. We ask for different investigator to handle the new judgment.

In February 2013, they issue another final decision. Same investigator who made personal comments is dealing with it. It has barely been altered save to harden their stance and bolster the nasty comments on me, in particular my taking half a sentence from my MP's two page letter and using it against me. It is not clear what they have been doing for the 6 months between judgments. I think the delay is to make you look like you're flogging a dead horse and are a loon for pursuing an ancient complaint.

I write and say I will want to make a complaint about the way this has been handled and the inaccuracies in their judgment but lawyers are considering a judicial review. LGO write and confirm they will await outcome of JR response before dealing with complaint and will give me time to make submissions before doing anything.

Second pre-action protocol letter issued. Leading counsel and lawyers now acting for free. Both agree LGO are wrong. At the end of May 2013, we receive a rubbish response refusing to change the decision. It says, for example, that the duty to arrange provision does not mean that there is a duty to deliver it??? And that, despite SEN COP saying it has to be arranged from the day the statement is issued, it is reasonable for LAs to take 4 or 5 months. Not because of any pressing emergency but just because, well that sounds reasonable....

Lawyers say we will access their complaints/review process and then decide whether to challenge the judgment by JR. They ask for a timeline for the complaints process.

A week later, I get a special delivery one page letter closing the case, telling me a review has been conducted and the LGO are great. I had not filed a complaint!

I write to the ass ombudsman dealing with the case. She ignores me. I contact lawyers who write to their lawyers.

On 28 June, ass ombudsman agrees to let me have time to file submissions - 14 days! She says if you need more time ask.As you know I have DS out of school and have had meetings to organise his provision and have had to completely redraft his statement. I say I can't do it. Give me an extension.

She ignores me. I have to get lawyer to write to her. Ten days later she says you have 7 more days!

I write explaining I am asking only for an additional 14 days as I can only work weekends as I am teaching DS etc. I tell her after a meeting at school last Friday, I needed to redraft statement, get in costings etc before close of term and DS had to come first.

She says 'I don't have time to listen to this'. Tells me her deadline stands.

My lawyer writes telling her she is being completely unreasonable. She ignores her. My lawyers writes again threatening judicial review. She IGNORES her.

Deadline passed yesterday.

I am so shocked by this level of appalling practice. I just wanted to share it all and get it all off my chest.

What do you do? Two and half years and it comes to this. They take 6 months between judgment and do nothing of any note, but I get 14 days when I have a child at home to educate. It's the nastiness in their tone too, really nasty and personal, like I'm shit on their shoes.

To top it all I made a complaint about lack of OT provision for a YEAR to my LA. I didn't go to the LGO because, well, why would you? We paid for OT ourselves. But we had Tribunal proceedings ongoing so we raised it throughout. Then we tried to get DPs for it. We raised the lack of OT there. DPs were refused because the LA have a block contract for OT! Well DS wasn't getting any provision under it. It turns out that the OT we have instructed is also working under this block contract so they instruct her.

So DS could have had OT with her paid by them all along. So I complain. Stage one response says DS did have daily OT administered in accordance with specialist programme designed by OT and delivered by TA. This is news to me, TA, DS and school. I ask for a copy of this programme. They ignore me. I take it to stage 2.

Stage 2 response comes back and says OT attended annual review in march 2012 and no one mentioned the lack of a programme. They ignore the fact that lack of OT has been brought to their attention Tribunal proceediings, by DP application, and by 2013 annual review where it is clear I have paid for OT to attend and NHS OT is nowhere to be seen and doesn't file a report.

They send me a leaflet to go to the LGO!

How do you deal with these people? Really?

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 23:57:55

Boc - not sure what the case is but is it an EU rather than an ECHR case? Send me a link. Countries can't really take each other to court but if the UK breaches EU law it can have infringement proceedings taken against it. There's no EU law relating to education.

The reality is , if we want a spotlight shining on it, WE will have to do it. No one else will. Charities, the press etc they are just not interested in SEN.

Wet - so you can understand how tough it is to walk away? These bastards have left my son without provision twice in three years and they just ignore complaints. Walking away is not likely to help this. I need to think laterally about this.

WetAugust Sun 21-Jul-13 00:08:09

IE

Have read the A v Essex case you linked for me.

Personally I think it's a very poor case. We've seen much stronger cases on here. The child actually had access to some education and even at his old school. We've had cases on here with nil education over a prolonged period. I can imagine that when the placement at his initial school broke down the LA would need time to re-assess him, make enquiries of potential placements and jump through the SS and other agency hoops that are necessary before making a residential placement. Add in the summer holidays and it's not too long for what is obviously a very complex case requiring residential etc. One can only wonder whether the child should ever have been in their original non-specialist placement.

So it's all about access to education rather than actually accessing education. hmm What a cop out!

It doesn't state whether that education should be public or privately funded.

Anyway, a poor case and it's only the judgement of the Supreme Court. A stronger case could be appealed to Europe if necessary.

WetAugust Sun 21-Jul-13 00:10:36

IE Was he left totally without education?

Is JR a High Court action? What's the appeal route from JR?

It's a while since I studied law (at night school)

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 08:32:54

The child in A had 18 months without effectuve education. This may be clearer here or you can read the case here

I agree the child needed highly specialist care and education but I would guess he was in the placement he was because of the LA in the first place. In any case, you will be up against an LA lying and making up reasons for not educating someone.

The case does leave a chink of light for others as they were out of time for a HRA case and the court would not extend time but, it is not a case of saying 'it's just the supreme court'. Appealing from the Supreme Court to the ECtHR is not at all easy as the ECtHR weeds out cases before it agrees to hear them. The Supreme Court is our top domestic court.

Yes, I agree, it is not impossible but it is not an easy option and as we know LAs will lie about finding resources or the specialist nature of the services they are required to offer etc etc

JR decisions are appealable on a point of law to the Court of Appeal.

bochead Sun 21-Jul-13 10:37:04

IE - when I'm not snowed under with my own crisis, I WILL research it for you as I'm almost convinced that Europe is the only way to sort out UK culture iyswim. It needs a radical culture change from the very top in the same way that H&S or pollution in certain industries did.

We can fight yes, but all we can do is chip away, what's needed is a demolition ball swung right through some key government departments.

I'd like to know how you challenge the lies, as when you uncover summat at school level everyone in the LA just closes ranks too. It's crazy.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 10:43:03

I think we just have to keep on telling the truth publicly as everyone else wants to focus on the good they find.

AgnesDiPesto Sun 21-Jul-13 10:56:33

The draft SEN COP for the new Bill says
Local authorities must arrange the special educational provision and may arrange the social care provision specified in the plan, from the date on which the plan is made. Clinical commissioning groups must arrange the health services specified in the plan, from the date on which the plan is made.
Will that be an improvement in 2014?
There is a minimum 15 days between a draft and final plan so I can see there may be cases eg to employ a TA where it could take longer than 15 days especially in the scenario where a parent has perhaps asked for changes to the draft plan for a TA with specific experience.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 11:14:55

But Agnes, SEN COP already says at 8.109 that LAs must ‘arrange the special educational provision...from the date on which the statement is made’.

The LGO just say 'arrange' does not mean 'deliver'.

So what DOES the LGO think is an acceptable time frame between arrange and deliver? 18 years? 18 months?

On what basis? Is it the same for everyone? or down to the discretion of them/ the LA? If so, what is the frigging POINT of a statement?

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 11:38:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WetAugust Sun 21-Jul-13 11:42:29

I still think that A was a weak case to bring. When my DS was 'out of school' ther was no way he could have returned to his mainstream school for some activities. I also had a very clear cut case of LA acknowledging that he needed specialist residential education and that they were refusing to pay for it as, in 6 months time, when he was 16, he would no longer be there responsibility and that residential accommodation would be funded by the LS&C. That's a failure to provide in my book. They could have but chose not to - so DS met the criteria in that A v Essex ruling in that the education was there but he was denied it through the refusal of the LA to fund it. And there are more clear cut examples of failing to provide out there - and must be known to the educational lawyers.

I wouldn't be too sure that the European Court would dismiss an SEN case. At that level it's all about politics. Britain does not like the European Court and I am sure the European Court would not miss an opportunity to make law that Britain would not find palatable, and they do have a track record on such laws e.g. prisoners votes, compensation for overdue prison stays etc.

The way ahead is a clear cut case taken to Europe.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 11:49:11

Sorry Wet but I think your perception of the ECtHR is completely wrong.

The ECtHR is not an activist court at all and I say that as a human rights lawyer. It is entirely deferential and the judgments you quote are based on deviations from basic legal norms where we are so far apart from agreed standards of justice (or had brought in new law which deviates from it) as to leave the court no choice.

I am sure you are right that there are more clear cut cases but the principle of the right to education is a qualified right which means the courts apply the doctrine of the 'margin of appreciation' deferring to the national courts and allowing arguments about resources etc. They are unlikely to get involved unless there is a blatant breach.

In any event, you can't go straight to the ECtHR with a new case. You have to take it through the domestic system and this is governed by precedent

There is ground to challenge and find space within the the A ruling but I actually feel the Equality Act is a much better basis for action than the HRA.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 11:49:54

It also takes YEARS to get a case to the ECtHR at the moment with backlogs in the tens of thousands. It is a most inefficient mechanism

WetAugust Sun 21-Jul-13 13:02:02

Soonest started.....grin

caringcarrotcruncher Sun 21-Jul-13 14:42:28

'I'd like to know how you challenge the lies, as when you uncover summat at school level everyone in the LA just closes ranks too'.

Agreed, however I have an interesting situation.
LA Managers have, in writing, confirmed an action taken on such and such a date.
School,in writing,to the court, have said I am incorrect and that it in fact did not happen on that date.
LA Manager has then said, in writing, that the school is mistaken with the date.
I know that I am correct with my facts but both parties are saying in writing that the other one is wrong confused. If they are both claiming the other one is wrong then how do you obtain the truth? It doesn't help that the action was unlawful so obviously a desperate cover up is needed but they can't even get that right! No wonder they are trying to get this struck out by the court as 'irrelevant'!

WetAugust Sun 21-Jul-13 16:43:21

Even hard evidence gets overlooked by the LGO Cruncher so he said she saids are pretty irrelevant.

I spent almost 4 decades working within public bodies. They tick along relentlessly and have perfected means of dealing with the disaffected - be they staff or customers. Ignore, obfuscate, prevaricate and, if all else fails , lie.

They won't be challenged from within - that would be career suicide so turning the eye is pretty rife.

They also work in a 'no blame culture'. Officially! So even if they do totally balls-up there are absolutely no penalties for doing so.

Depressing.

Badvoc Sun 21-Jul-13 18:09:12

IE....I am appalled at all this. I'm so sorry.
But it makes me even more sure I did the right thing by opting out.
Like others on this thread i have made huge sacrifices to enable my son to access education. I have home schooled, moved home and LA and schools.
And I would do it again before dealing with these people.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 18:18:24

Here is some of the gems I have had to put up with. In one decisions:

“A finalised statement may be challenged at first tier tribunal and the tribunal may order different provision. While exploring availability of provision is sensible, to seek to set it in place when it may be over-turned, for example on appeal, is not. It could also deprive other children of provision they need. In my view it would not be a sensible commitment of multi-agency resources until the Statement is agreed.”

Seriously. Seriously??? These people are paid for this crap.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 18:20:17

Sorry for typos - here ARE some of the gems. In one decision

Being typing all day.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 18:23:05

Another genius puts:

"delay in statementing cases is clearly inevitable"

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 18:24:35

"Issues of disability discrimination need to be raised with the first tier tribunal – I am sorry – the Local Government Ombudsman cannot help you"

Is that what they say in their quarterly meetings with the Equality and Human Rights Commission about their human rights focussed work?

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 18:27:10

Oh and this piece de resistance of impartial decison-making when trying to justify the LA's vexatious determination:

"The volume of correspondence to the council, which your solicitor says was not inappropriate, was perceived as such by council officers which led to the request for your contact to be restricted. In the relatively short period of time I have been involved in your case, you have sent me multiple emails and you have copied me into emails to other agencies over which the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction."

Her allegations were entirely untrue. She was forced to confirm my correspondence was nothing but reasonable but then said she had 'deleted the emails' she had referred to as me copying in other agencies. Complete and utter lies.

WTF!

This is not about resources, this is about sheer incompetence, partiality and collusion. And no basic understanding of the law

Badvoc Sun 21-Jul-13 18:46:49

But you and I know it absolutely is about resources IE.
That has been my experience at 2 different schools in 2 different LAs.
There is no money, no resources and no qualified staff to deliver provision.
I have been in the very twilight zone position of having teachers telling me my child is struggling, to a teacher and HT telling me that my child was making progress (when they demonstrably weren't), to a Senco telling me they had no concerns to an EP dx severe dyslexia all within the space of 3 months.
I was then told at a meeting that I needed to accept that the lowest sets might be "where my ds belonged".
He was 7 years old sad
Nothing surprises me anymore sadly.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 21-Jul-13 18:51:12

These statements are from the LGO not a school. This is not about LGO staffing resources is what I meant.

This is about lying.

Badvoc Sun 21-Jul-13 18:55:56

Yes.
They lie.
All the time.
And it's dreadful that they get away with it.
You're right, it's a no blame culture that is to blame (pardon the pun)

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now