NORTH Somerset Council has been ordered to pay a mother £4,550 after her child, who was unable to attend school due to high levels of anxiety, was left without sufficient alternative education.

The child — referred to only as Y — stopped being able to attend school in the spring of 2021. Local authorities have to arrange suitable education for children who are out of school for reasons such as illness.

But the Local Government Ombudsman found that — in the period of time it investigated, from spring 2021 until early 2022 — “Y received virtually no education”.

Following a complaint from Y’s mother (“Mrs X”), the ombudsman awarded the sum and ordered North Somerset Council to review its processes around providing alternative education.

It said: “There was a failure to provide suitable fulltime alternative education when a child was unable to attend school due to high levels of anxiety.

“This led the child to miss out on education, including special educational provision. The council will apologise, make a symbolic payment and service improvements.”

Mrs X had previously complained to the council itself over the loss of education and that emails from her and Y’s school to the council requesting assistance had been “ignored” since the start of 2022.

The ombudsman’s report said the council “acknowledged problems with responding to communications” and “lacked staff” but had increased capacity to address this. 

It added the council had said it declined medical tuition — a tuition service for children unable to attend school for medical needs — when asked to by Y’s school because the request had  not been supported by a consultant from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

But Mrs X said this was an “impossible barrier” as Y had been discharged from CAMHS and it would not provide further advice.

The ombudsman agreed with Mrs X and said the council should have made the decision based on the available evidence, such as from Y’s school, and ordered the council to change its written policies and guidance to make this clear in the future.

It ordered the council to pay Mrs X £4,000 to acknowledge the loss of education between spring 2021 and early 2022; another £500 for “the distress, time, trouble and inconvenience caused to her,” and £50 to refund music therapy sessions she paid for.

By the time of the report being issued, the council had already apologised to her during its complaints process.