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Complaint about LA - lies, lies and more lies!

(23 Posts)
pleasestoplying Sat 27-Aug-11 19:57:44

Not new - just not been on for a while. I have been in the process of making a very big complaint about the SEN staff at the LA for a long time. To cut a very very long story short, the panel who make SEN decisions have consistently ignored recommendations from nursery/ school staff, CAMHS staff and me when making decisions about my ds. This has meant 4 Tribunal applications (against refusal to assess and then contents of the Statement (parts 2 & 3) x 3, when they have refused to up the support or have tried to reduce the support) BUT have never actually got as far as Tribunal as the SEN officer has over-ridden the panel's decision each time and backed down.

He does have a bloddy good Statement now, in fairness, but my complaint is about the mechanics of the decision-making (the refusal to consider the Annual Review reports/ recommendations and basically making up the provision in the Statement and then only backing down once Tribunal application has gone in).

LA's position is that they have to have a review process which challenges high levels of support and that they are entitled to have a process with a panel that makes decisions in any way they want.

I have already quoted SEN CoP re: needing to only amend the Statement in accordance with AR reports and need to communicate what the changes are, why they were made and what evidence they have for needing those changes.

However, person overseeing complaint appears very convinced by this argument that the council can do what it likes in order to guard its resources.

Any thought on any other legal stuff I can throw at them about when it's OK to ignore AR reports/ amend the Statement etc.?

Any help gratefully received. I don't want them to get away with this - my son is OK but they're doing this to parents without resources to fight it sad.

pleasestoplying Sat 27-Aug-11 19:58:04

bloody blush

ArthurPewty Sat 27-Aug-11 22:27:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bigpants1 Sat 27-Aug-11 22:47:47

Hi.I think it was on this board a short while ago, that someone said, that the LA do NOT have to read/accept any report if they so choose, during the Statement process. Lougle is pretty hot on the ins and outs of the SEN Legalaties,so perhaps she can advise you.
But, if this is right, then it seems to make a mockery of the system, and indeed, the whole process is therefore stacked against parents, since they rely heavily on Reports from Health etc. to make the case that their dc needs x amount of support.
If this is the process, then Im not sure your complaint will make any head-way with the LA. I wonder if your energy would be better spent challenging the System-ie could you prove the LA are acting "illegally" or against the Human Rights of the dc? Hope something good will come from your complaint.

tryingtokeepintune Sun 28-Aug-11 00:41:58

I was told (verbally) by the LGO that the council is entitled to have a process with a couple of panels and as long as the officer followed the procedure and referred the matter to the panel, they can be deemed to be acting reasonably. The LGO cannot look into the decision made unless it was unreasonable i.e. the members of the panel can discuss the issue amongst themselves as professionals and then come to a professional decision. The fact that when challenged with SENDIST, the LA then change their mind and then agree with your position is neither here nor there - in fact, the matter you appealed to the Tribunal about will not be looked at, they cannot go there, the LGO representative said.

I don't know about you but to me it seems that:

the LA can set up a procedure to consider matter and as long as they follow the procedure, they will be acting reasonably despite making decisions that they themselves might change a couple of months later when challenged with a tribunal.

izzie123 Sun 28-Aug-11 11:36:41

I presume you have gone through the COP in detail. I think it says for example that to reduce support in a statement the lea would need evidence from the AR. But they may say your DC was progressing well. You may want to ask the lea what their policies are in respect of how they assess and decide support, withdrawal etc.. you can then compare that to what happened in your case. If their policy does not comply with Sen code or they didnt follow their own policy then it is maladministration and you can complain to the Lgo. I have found the council doesn't recognise their errors unless a 3d party gets involved.

WetAugust Sun 28-Aug-11 18:45:28

The LA has a statutory duty to identify, assess and support SENs.

They are failing in this duty if they are being selective in which reports they chose to comply with and which tghey chose to ignore. Those they are ignoring may have descriptions of SENs - so to ignore those reports is to fail to identify and assess all the SENs.

Its the LA Case Officer that has statutory responsibility for SENs - not the Panel. This has been confirmed by the Sec of State for Ed. They can consult a Panel whoever the actual decision is that of the Case Officer.

I would complain to the Local Authority and then to the LGO as the LA are failing in their statutory duty. They cannot claim that by having a Panel they therefore have a (local) process - that doesn't override their statutory responsibility to identify and assess all SENs.

Without all the reports any decision taken by the Panel is an uninformed decision.

pleasestoplying Sun 28-Aug-11 20:01:48

I think all of what all of you say makes sense wrt panels and the LA's entitlement to have them, although, as WetAugust says, the ultimate decision has to be an officer's. I suppose what I'm trying to get at is the point that WA has made: they have followed their own procedure but their panel has repeatedly ignored ALL evidence (not even just selective! They have agreed in writing that the panel sometimes overrides recommendations from all involved professionals and parents!)

It is LGO that I have complained to and I am gobsmacked that, so far, man I am dealing with seems convinced that they're entitled to have panels (OK), review their decision before Tribunal (sort of OK) and to make the decision about provision based on safeguarding their finances (not remotely OK!). Seems to think it's OK to have ignored the evidence. I can't find anything explicit in SEN CoP that says they have to look at evidence though! It's implicit - I mean, it doesn't say 'feel free to come to any decision you want' but nor does it actually say 'you must consider the evidence properly' but am I missing something?

Thanks for all ideas so far!

tryingtokeepintune Sun 28-Aug-11 20:15:11

pleasestoplying - do we have the same man investigating both our cases?

Mine seems, at least to me, to be looking for ways to let the LA/school off the hook.

TheTimeTravellersWife Sun 28-Aug-11 20:20:31

From other cases I have read about online, I'm don't know if the LGO is worth bothering with TBH.
Once again, it seems that the odds are stacked against parents.

pleasestoplying Sun 28-Aug-11 20:47:59

Possibly, ttkit! Yes, it seems to be a whitewash; all my evidence has been glossed over and theirs given lots of weight and 'well, they said it's because x, y and z happened'. When I reply that 'evidence a, b and c prove that x,y and z didn't happen', it's ignored angry.

I agree, TTTW, that LGO seem to be a spectacular disppointment so far. I'm not giving up on this as otherwise, not only will the LA think that their behaviour for the last 6 years was OK, they will continue to do it for the next 7!

What happens to the people's kids where the parents can't fight sad. OH said tonight that at least ds has what he needs now so not worth keeping going on with it but he doesn't understand that the battles, potentially, continue year after year.

WetAugust Sun 28-Aug-11 21:55:58

How I would play it -

Every single time they refuse to consider any report I would write to them stating that they have failed to consider all the information available to them, that their decision will therefore be inadequately informed and, should damage arise from that failure to acknowledge all the available informtion, I shall consider seeking a legal remedy.

That should make them think twice.

I agree the LGO is crap even though I won our case. It's staffed by former LA toadies. The whole SEN system is rotten through and through.

TheTimeTravellersWife Sun 28-Aug-11 22:07:33

I was just thinking that maybe the SEN Green Paper that was published would be improved if Sarah Teather came and had a read of some of the experiences of parents on the SN threads!

I have read the Green Paper and responded, and read some of Sarah Teather's interviews, and she seems to be off the opinions that LA's are "the champions of vulnerable children" - if only!
Sorry, off topic!

appropriatelytrained Sun 28-Aug-11 23:00:47

Beware - too many legitimate complaints or recorded comments led to me being branded 'vexatious' without warning as a method to prevent me raising any more queries. And I am a lawyer, and I did nothing but quote the legal position!

This is now going to form the basis of my second LGO complaint. The first was dealt with in the most scandalously partial way and has had to be reopened after legal argument (from me) that it was erroneous.

So Wet is right - the system stinks from top to bottom.

Paras 8:128 and 8:131 (in addition to the section in SEN COP on Annual review) refer to the obligation to give reasons and explain decision-making.

However, LAs are subject to broader public law duties in all their decision-making irrespective of SEN COP and this is what they just don't get.

In very basic terms, this means that decisions need to be:

(i) lawful (i.e. they can't take anything irrelevant into account but must consider all relevant evidence)

(ii) fair (this includes a duty to give reasons for decision-making)

(iii) rational and proportionate - they must be reasonable and based on evidence. LAs cannot act in a way no reasonable LA would act

If LAs don't comply, they are judicially reviewable. Of course, LAs don't give a toss about this as who is going to spend money judicially reviewing them? However, sometimes legal aid can be applied for in the child's name to challenge decisions. You might want to take legal advice and get a solicitors letter off.

I should have done this MUCH earlier myself as LAs will just ignore parents on issues like this.

pleasestoplying Mon 29-Aug-11 13:14:38

WetAugust, thank you. I will do that. Did you have to do the same or did they accept your complaint the first time?

TTTW, yes - sadly, I don't think she's even properly looked at the Lamb report hmm.

appropriatelytrained, those are really helpful points, especially as the sections of the CoP are not as unequivocal. If it's not too much hassle, please can you point me to these public law acts that set out the need to be fair, rational, proportionate and lawful? I think this might be more of a winning argument than the (non-statutory, quite vague) SEN CoP. Thank you - you're helping me centre my argument.

Add this in to Wetautgust's strategy of picking their argument apart (again), it might get me somewhere...maybe.

WetAugust Mon 29-Aug-11 16:38:22

From my very first foray into SEN battles with the LA I was advised (by IPSEA) to ensure I included the word 'rasonable'. i.e. "It is reasonable to expect you to...."

LAs must act reasonably. So, if reports exist it is reasonable to request that they consider all the reports. To do otherwise is to act unreasonably unless they can justify doing so.

I used to write to my LA several times a week, but we were very time-constrained to reach an agreement as son was approaching 16th birthday in a matter of months, after which LA's statutory duty to provide suitable placement for him ceased.

Each letter made a reasonable request and warned that I would seek a remedy should they fail to meet this reasonable request.

That way I ensured that every complaint was on record and that they had failed to take the reasonable actions I had requested.

Of course the tossers still dragged their heels and refused provision so eventually I made good my threat and sued them.

They can't say they weren't warned grin

pleasestoplying Tue 30-Aug-11 12:26:09

So, key terms: reasonable, fair, rational, proportionate and lawful. That's great and I am starting to use them and put the argument together. Where do these terms come from though confused - is there a 'LAs must be nice' Act that I can quote?!

Thanks for all the help.

appropriatelytrained Tue 30-Aug-11 15:21:25

This is a handy little summary for judicial review principles http://www.publiclawproject.org.uk/downloads/WhatIsJR.pdf

appropriatelytrained Tue 30-Aug-11 15:25:38

These terms come from caselaw developed over centuries to control the misuse of public power. They crop up in judicial review proceedings which form the basis of the constraints on public power.

Wet - you do right to record your demands/complaints - but it got me banned from further correspondence under the LA's vexatious policy - be warned. They can get very hostile/dirty when you get too close to areas they would rather avoid.

Decision-making is one of these areas as they frequently fail to make decisions in a lawful way, basing them on policies, resources etc. They are not going to admit this so they get caught between a rock and a hard place and come out fighting!

pleasestoplying Wed 31-Aug-11 01:11:14

You are wonderful, AT - have made loads of headway now! Thank you so much. I have tried to take all rantiness out and only refer to legal stuff that I can back up.

tryingtokeepintune Wed 31-Aug-11 01:46:57

AT - thanks for the link.

Am thinking it might be useful against the school too.

pleasestoplying Thu 01-Sep-11 10:49:50

I don't get what parents are supposed to do to make this system work. I don't see how the new system will be any better. Tis all a bit shit really angry and it was bad enough before we had a Conservative government and financial cuts. Feeling a bit gloomy about the future today. Got 8 years of it left - and then adult services are supposed to be terrible sad ggrrr.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 01-Sep-11 11:04:29

please Strangely I see the new government as a way to improve some things. Not through the goodness of their hearts - oh no, but some of their ideologies do give parents more power.

I think this is a climate where a local councillor could be more effective. Either one for the Government, or the an opposing party.

The very least it has done is reduce the pension pot of our Head of Autism who has too little time left to top it up. For that my world is a little sunnier! wink

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