Bromley Council has been told to pay a mum nearly £2,000 after failing to arrange occupational therapy sessions for her child with special needs for five months.

The authority was criticised for its poor record keeping and communication with the parent in a recent Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report.

The report said that a resident, named Mrs X in the report, had a child with special educational and physical health needs.

The mum reportedly commissioned an independent occupational therapist (OT) assessment in November 2022 which found her child, named Y in the report, would benefit from further therapy to support their development.

Y’s school then carried out a review on transferring the pupil from infant to junior school in December 2022. Bromley Council also told Mrs X in January 2023 that it planned to amend Y’s education, health and care plan (EHCP).

The authority then told the parent that it had sourced a junior school for Y to start that September and that it would send her Y’s draft EHCP for her comments, but gave no timescale on when this would be done.

The parent sent a formal complaint to the council in early March, claiming the authority had failed to amend her child’s EHCP after the review in December 2022 within the SEND regulations deadline of February 15.

She said she had received no communication with the council since early February.

The council sent a draft copy of Y’s EHCP shortly afterwards while also writing to the independent OT, who confirmed to the council they could provide the therapy recommended to Y and gave a quote.

Mrs X sent her comments on the draft EHCP along with a breakdown of the cost of therapy sessions from the OT.

The ombudsman also criticised the council for taking 12 weeks to send the draft EHCP when it should have been sent within four weeks.

Bromley Council acknowledged the frustration it had caused Mrs X from its delay in finishing her child’s EHCP and apologised.

The authority said it had not yet received her comments on the draft and sent another copy of it to her.

The council later told the ombudsman this delay was due to the caseworker being on leave at the time and the initial comments had not been stored on file. They said the matter had been reviewed so the error would not happen again.

Mrs X reportedly responded the same day and said there were errors in the council’s response to her complaint and included a copy of her initial email with comments on Y’s EHCP.

The report said: “In May 2023 the council requested further information from Mrs X including the OT report from November 2022, and details of the cost for the therapy provided by the OT. Mrs X sent the information to the council again. The council issued Y’s final EHC plan in late May 2023.”

The ombudsman said in their report that Y’s EHCP was finalised 14 weeks late and had caused frustration for Mrs X.

The council claimed in August 2023 that it was aware Y had not received the OT sessions outlined in their EHCP from May that year.

They emailed the independent OT and received an automatic response stating they were unavailable until October for health reasons.

The authority was criticised by the ombudsman for not checking with the OT in late May that they were still available after the final EHCP had been made.

They told Mrs X it was aware of Y missing their sessions and offered to commission another OT until the independent provider could start lessons later that year.

Mrs X responded to say the independent OT told her she was unavailable for this time in late May.

The authority then agreed to explore finding a temporary OT provider but said Mrs X agreed that it may not be suitable as she wanted the original OT to provide all the sessions.

The council told the ombudsman that there was a mistake in its response to Mrs X’s complaint. They said there was no delay in sending Y’s draft plan and the delay in preparing the final EHCP was due to several changes Mrs X had requested for it.

The report said: “The above was poor record keeping, poor communication, and was fault. The faults caused the council to misinform Mrs X that it had not received her comments, led to further delay in completing Y’s EHC plan, and caused Mrs X frustration and uncertainty about whether the council was acting in response to her concerns. The council has explained it has made changes to its recording system to ensure the fault does not reoccur.”

The council was told to apologise to Mrs X for the frustration it caused her by its poor communication and poor record keeping of her child’s EHCP.

The authority was also instructed to pay the parent £1,980 for its faults, including the price of the 12 OT sessions it was estimated Y had missed between February and July 2023.

A Bromley Council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Bromley Council had been engaging with the family prior to the complaint being received.

"Following the Ombudsman’s approach, the council cooperated fully with the investigation and agreed with the proposed remedial action, which has already been acknowledged by the regulator to be completed to their satisfaction.”

They added: “The council is committed to providing every child in the borough with the best possible education and works in tandem with health partners to support children and young people with SEND.

"However, as with every other local area with responsibility for supporting children with SEND, it is not always straightforward, given the ever-increasing pressure to marshal available resources, to provide the service we would wish.”