Redbridge Council agrees to abide by ombudsman and compensate parents

Redbridge Council is to pay more than £11,000 to two families who complained about its treatment of their disabled sons, despite the authority not agreeing it had done anything wrong.

Last month, officers suggested the council should refuse to pay £9,800 awarded by the local government ombudsman to the family of a boy who missed a year of school.

Just over a week later, the council was publicly criticised by ombudsman Michael King over a delay accepting his recommendation to pay £1,700 to the family of another disabled young man.

While in both cases council officers still disagree with the ombudsman, councillors agreed last night to pay up, having previously insisted the thought of refusing made them “uncomfortable”.

The two cases involve a young boy who missed a year of school because the council did not arrange home tutoring for him and Alex Busk, whose parents have successfully complained to the ombudsman six times in the last decade.

The council will pay £9,800 to the family of the eleven-year-old, not named for privacy reasons, despite insisting it was following medical advice that the boy was too ill for home tutoring.

It will pay £1,700 to the Busk family after ombudsman Michael King criticised it for failing to carry out a previously agreed remedy and removing some healthcare from Alex’s Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Alex’s parents, Chris and Mary Busk, said in June that their complaints “have never been about the money”, which is “inconsequential compared to the level of trauma this has caused our family”.

The South Woodford couple said: “There’s been no progress for the last 15 years, no learning or change of culture despite all the ombudsman decisions.

“I think we are seen as difficult and tiresome by the council… but we are very civil, we are not people who lose our temper or anything.

“Everything we do is about making sure our son has good quality care and a good life in the community.”

The Busks, both in their 50s, say they spent “tens of thousands” over the years to keep their son in school, while the council “fought [them] over pounds and pennies”.

Overview scrutiny member Sunita Bhamra told the committee last night she was “really glad a decision has been made that puts the family and the child first”.

At the last meeting on June 7, councillors had insisted they were “uncomfortable” refusing to pay the money, even if the council was not at fault. Labour member Anne Sachs had argued the ombudsman system “works on respect”, adding: “Sometimes you have got to take a deep breath and say ‘you win some, you lose some’.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter