Hertfordshire County Council has been ordered to pay £2,900 to a family after failing to make education available to a child who could not go to school.

Whenever a pupil is out of school because of exclusion, illness or other reasons, councils must arrange suitable education at school or elsewhere.

But the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found that the county council failed to do so for one child for four months, and has directed the council to pay out almost £3,000 – in recognition of the period the child was without a suitable education, the parent’s time and trouble and as a reimbursement for some tuition costs.

According to the Ombudsman’s report, the council was first approached by the child’s parent in November 2021, when she requested an Education Heath and Care Plan.

It was at that point she informed the council that her daughter, who has a diagnosis of autism, had stopped attending school.

That application for an EHCP assessment was initially refused – but then accepted after a further submission from the school.

In March 2022, the final EHCP document was issued. But, according to the Ombudsman’s report, between November and March the child remained out of school.

Initially, it says, learning resources that had been placed online by the school as part of their Covid-19 provision were accessed by the child.

Furthermore, the school did provide some “unsuccessful” one-to-one online tutoring in the January.

The Ombudsman found that no other education was provided between January and March.

Ultimately, the parent complained to the Ombudsman that the council had failed to provide a education between October 2021 and October 2022.

However, the Ombudsman only considered the period between October 2021 and March 2022. This is because an appeal was lodged with the SEND Tribunal against some elements of the EHCP, including the school place named in it.

The Ombudsman cannot investigate any matter that is “inextricably linked” to the matters under appeal.

According to the report, a SEND tribunal did consider the woman’s concerns, and ordered amendments to be made to the EHCP, with a revised document issued in December 2022.

The Ombudsman said that within four weeks the county council should make a payment of £2,400 to the woman to recognise the period the child was without a suitable education, between November 2021 and March 2022.

In addition, the council was ordered to pay £200 to recognise the time and trouble she put into pursuing the issue of her daughter’s education, along with a further payment of £306 to her to reimburse her for tuition that she had arranged in late 2021 and March 2022.

In response to the Ombudsman’s findings, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council told the Local Democratic Reporting Service: “We offer our sincere apologies to the family involved in this case.

“To secure the best outcomes for children across the county we are committed to working in partnership with young people, parents, carers and schools so that they receive the support they need and deserve.

“We take all decisions and findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s very seriously and where they find we have been at fault, we work hard to understand why that has happened, how we can put it right and how we can prevent it happening again.

“To deliver better outcomes for children with SEND, a strong improvement strategy has been put into place, including an additional ongoing £7million investment into statutory SEND services and creating 1,000 new SEND school places between 2018 and 2026.”