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Anyone complained to the LA? was iy worthwhile?

(17 Posts)
billiejeanbob Wed 01-Oct-14 18:51:38

We have recently won at tribunal against the LA. The judge's decision is full of criticisms of the LA and the way the rep behaved. It concludes that the rep did not follow the directions as set out by the tribunal, was 'inconsistent' with their reasoning for not agreeing to provision and that the provision suggested by the LA was not 'sufficent' for my dds needs.

The past 18 months have been very stressful for us all and I am so glad that it is over. However the LA rep personally attacked me in the tribunal and informed the panel that if they were to order the parental proposed provison (slt ot and specialist teaching) then she would initiate an interim annual review to remove this within a few months sad .

Now I am unsure what to do. I am glad this battle is over and could quite happily never speak to the LA again. However I feel that the rep should take responsibility for her actions and I dont want this to happen again within a few months.

Does anybody have any advice? Would a complaint be worthwhile?

manishkmehta Wed 01-Oct-14 19:41:54

Pleaes don't answer this on an OP,... but who was the rep? I'd really be keen to know... Was it a solicitor, barrister, or an LEA rep? Very shocked to hear what they said at tribunal... It's asking for trouble when someone says "she would initiate an interim annual review to remove this within a few months..." I suspect the judge was not happy about this...

Well done for your win...

JJXM Wed 01-Oct-14 19:57:49

We're in the process of an official complaint about our LA - they sent a wishy-washy reply and now it has gone to someone independent in the council. As to whether it was worth it? The decision is due in a few weeks so I'll find out then. We have the placement and statement now but I still hold on to how they made me feel when they refused to assess - I have what I want now but I should have had it months before and without the stress.

uggerthebugger Wed 01-Oct-14 21:03:57

I did; unlawful behaviour during transition review, and fabrication of evidence by LA rep during Tribunal (confirmed post-hearing via FOI request).

Took it to stage 1, got fobbed off. Took it to stage 2 (director of children's services), very carefully-worded non-denial denial. At that point, I had the option to take it to the council's chief executive, but I decided to drop it - I had no faith that the outcome would be any different, and I simply didn't have the time, energy and reserves of trust to take it to an external body like the LGO. Later-stage complaints can be much, much more time-consuming than the initial complaints.

Have a think about what you want to achieve with the complaint, and whether you need to achieve it right now. Put bluntly, it is very, very unlikely that your complaint will result in a long-term change in the LA rep's working practices, or better accountability of her actions from above. There is a good chance that her management are incentivising her to act as she has done; it is not in the mentality of most of these people to consider themselves responsible to people like our kids and their families.

If you want to complain so that she doesn't follow through on her threat at Tribunal to review the statement - I don't know how effective that would be. Like Jeeves says, it comes down to the psychology of the individual. But there are few people as vindictive and nasty as a threatened mid-ranking bureaucrat with no other viable career options.

If you want to complain to make sure that no-one else goes through what you've been through - again, your chances of overall success aren't high. But it'll take a while before your evidence gets stale, and you can always sit on it until your DC's provision is firmly embedded. Once you feel less vulnerable, you can pick your time.

There are a couple of folks on here who've taken complaints all the way, and won; not sure if they're still around <reaches for the TOWIE bat-signal> , but I think from what they've said, the victory was largely symbolic.

MeirAiaNeoAlibi Wed 01-Oct-14 23:33:45

With complaints- short, sweet and easy-to-resolve might occasionally get somewhere. So "person x said they'll find a way to get the provision cancelled whatever the judge says" could be challenged. In a very forgiving way - but copied in to someone with authority

"people were tired, emotions running high, but it's been worrying me, could you confirm that LA doesn't have a policy of ignoring Tribunal findings, I don't want to formally pursue this if it was just an unfortunate remark made in the heat of the moment"

Challenging illegal discriminatory and outright wrongness- largely pointless, it's like fighting candy floss so don't waste your time and emotional energy- as utter says, a midrange functionary turning nasty won't help you.

pinkchickens Thu 02-Oct-14 06:13:03

Having been through tribunal,and all stages of a complaint to the LGO (which was proven) I would say don't bother. They don't seem to really care what they do or how they act. In my case the LGO supported the LA acting illegally despite having full evidence of what had happened. Despite the LGO finding that there was maladministration causing injustice I know that my LA is still allowing schools to act unlawfully after claiming that they would review their policies hmm

You have the judges's comments following the tribunal and so do the LA. This is very useful ammo if they do try to remove support early on.

BackToSchoolTOWIE Thu 02-Oct-14 13:34:45

ugger Antenna just picked up the TOWIE bat-signal grin

billiejeanbob Sorry - haven't been on the board for a while so didn't realise that you'd "won". Well done, I hope you got all the provision your child needs.

At my Tribunal, the LA rep didn't threaten me with words, but by her body language towards me during the hearing, and her overall conduct of my case throughout our 18 months of sheer hell, to put it bluntly, I knew I had to get her before she got me. By the way she acted during the hearing, I knew that one day, if I didn't get her, I would see her in a Tribunal hearing again.

So I did complain and went through the entire complaints process within the LA. When that was (predictably) not satisfactory, I went on up the food chain to the LGO. Who ultimately found in my favour. I received a written and verbal apology from the LA along with several undertakings from them including that

- this woman would not be allowed near my DS's case ever again (although I have seen her name copied into some recent emails)

- instead, all correspondence about my DS and his SEN has to go through the senior manager of the entire SEN dept.

- additionally, all future decisions regarding my DS's education future would first go through senior management within my LA. This includes someone about 3rd-in-command over the whole LA (ie not just the SEN department).

- They were also ordered by the LGO to tighten up a lot of their processes.

Was it worth it? Well, it was very very stressful going through the entire complaints process and there was no financial compensation (but this wasn't about money). BUT I feel that I've protected my son's future because my DS's file at the LA has a massive great big flashing red light with alarm bells screeching out at the highest decibals. Any dealings with me (from the lowest to the highest) since the LGO upheld my complaint have been very respectful towards me. It's that old saying, keep your friends close to you, but your enemies closer...

I also knew that I'd won the Tribunal at a very vulnerable stage in my DS's educational future. I "won" as he went into year 5, so I knew that at year 6 review/transition, they could take away the hard fought provision he'd got. But with the LGO's findings, the LA wouldn't dare try to change it because they knew I'd be straight back to Tribunal and would also be able to show the Judge that, if they had attempted to remove the provision, this would have been done so close to LGO upholding my complaint so I could argue that the LA was acting in revenge.

I made my complaint very very specific - that they'd breached a specific piece of legislation within the Education Act and a specific clause in the SEN CoP. I ignored all the bullying and intimidation I'd had to put up with for 18 months. So my advice is, if you complain, go for a very very specific breach or an administrative failure. The LGO will be able to investigate breaches in applying the law or administrative failure - but they won't be able to investigate bully-boy tactics.

Also, whilst you go through the entire complaints process (it took over 6 months in my case), the LA would not dare do anything like calling an interim annual review because they'd risk too much with the LGO to do such a thing.

It was highly stressful pursuing my complaint. But I do feel it was worth it. The more people that complain, the better. LAs cannot be allowed to get away with their illegal and immoral actions

Although perhaps my LA need another rocket up their bum, because my DS's AR was 4 months ago and I still haven't received the revised Statement. I feel a polite but firm email to my new-best-friend is just about to be written...

BackToSchoolTOWIE Thu 02-Oct-14 14:26:26

Forgot to say...

From a personal point of view, I felt violated and very very very angry after the Tribunal - even though I eventually got the provision my DS so desperately needed.

Going through the entire complaints process helped me to finally put all those terrible feelings to bed, once and for all. Since the LGO upheld my complaint, I have finally been able to move on with both my life and and my family's life.

The LGO upholding my complaint did give me a sense of (limited) justice and a form of closure.

JJXM Thu 30-Oct-14 12:12:16

Just an update. Our council has admitted breaching the SENCOP and has issued an apology. It's taken months but we can finally put this behind us.

Icimoi Thu 30-Oct-14 21:43:50

OP, I'd suggest writing to the Head of SEN and quoting what the rep said and asking them to confirm that that isn't in fact their intention. Trying to reverse a tribunal decision by calling an early annual review to amend the statement would be the equivalent of contempt of court, I would have thought.

MeirAiaNeoAlibi Thu 30-Oct-14 22:07:42

Jjxm. That's fab

JJXM Fri 31-Oct-14 09:02:18

They've offered some compensation but that is nothing compared to them admitting that they breached the SENCop and the acknowledgement of our distress.

BackToSchoolTOWIE Fri 31-Oct-14 12:09:16

Well done JJXM for getting your complaint upheld.

We weren't offered any compensation what-so-ever. My LA breached both the SENCoP and the Education Act. But, as you say, it's not about the money.

What has worked well in my case, is that I now have a "hot-line" to a very senior manager who is actually finally working in my son's "best interests". The turnaround of her behaviour and even her whole attitude towards me has been remarkable. I feel that my complaint has long-term helped my son's educational future for some years, because they daren't do anything that'll trigger another complaint from me.

It was absolutely hell complaining, but it was worth it in the long run. More parents should complain.

JJXM Fri 31-Oct-14 12:42:12

Definitely complain - it takes forever but it is the only way to change things long term - we hope that no-one in our area has to go through this again. Even though our DS got his statement and the school we wanted, we weren't prepared to let the council get away with breaking the law. It took the first complaint, complaint about the response, a face-to-face meeting, an escalation, a complaint about time delay before it got to the top.

wintershadows Fri 31-Oct-14 15:11:59

I have had various complaints in the past with LA and the school. I did find the LGO investigator quite biased in favour of the LA and they blatantly turned a blind eye to one of the illegal acts hmm. Maladministration with injustice was however proven and some compensation paid for all the distress, which I know is not the norm. Dh thought that complaining would make the LA less likely to help us in the future. I could see his point but I'm not the type to keep quiet if I see unlawful acts taking place.

Months later the LA made another big error,breaking the law again! We couldn't believe it and sent a strongly worded complaint letter, copying in the Chief Exec. An apology was forthcoming in a matter of hours and a senior manager is now personally dealing with us. Any emails are now responded to immediately which was never the case before. Like Towie, I do think that they now want to avoid the risk of receiving any further complaints from us. If you demonstrate that you know the law and won't tolerate their game playing it does put you in a stronger position for the future.

bjkmummy Fri 31-Oct-14 16:43:39

I regret not doing it with my son 2 years ago - we would win an indie school placement and I was all prepared to complain post tribunal but listened to a friend who said I would need to work with these people in the future so I didn't do it - fast forward two years and onto tribunal number 3 = now with my dd, LA learnt no lessons whatsoever and continue to behave appallingly - I did complain recently but ive gone too early in the sense that we are now mid tribunal - however ive let that quietly drop and will complain at the end - although as we are likely still yet another tribunal possibly to go after this one - its going to be a long drawn out process

chaiselounger Sun 19-Jul-15 19:57:43

I know this is an old thread but could anyone please tell me - I appreciate it is personal to your child, but:

a) specifically which bit of the SENCOP and

b) specifically which bit of the educational act, did they admit to breaching?

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