A COMPLAINT against Barnsley Council’s disabled children services has been upheld after an independent investigation carried out by inspectors found the provision ‘fell short’.
Sophia Tattersall, 42, of Church Street in Gawber, has long been campaigning for better support with children with disabilities.
Her son, 12-year-old Max, has epilepsy, homocystinuria, hypomyelination, ADHD and is partially-sighted, and should receive respite care twice a week during the school holidays from provider Stride.
Stride became the council’s new SEND - special educational needs and disability - provider in July after Barnardo’s notified the local authority they were unable to continue to run the service.
The respite service is run at Priory Campus, Lundwood.
As part of Max’s ‘child in need’ (CIN) plan, he was scheduled to have two sessions per week at Stride in the holidays - something Sophia was left frustrated at after this wasn’t met.
Barnsley Council told parents last Christmas that the sessions would not be going ahead because it was the festive period - Sophia managed to get one session on for respite but Max’s plan required four sessions in that time frame.
She told the Chronicle: “As part of Max’s respite package and in his child in need plan he has two sessions per week at Stride in the holidays.
“At Christmas, the council weren’t planning on putting any sessions on at Stride ‘because it’s Christmas’ - so I sent a few emails and eventually, they put one session on.
“I was mad and so I put in a complaint against the council.
“The complaint was investigated and the answer was: ‘Well, you got a session at Christmas’.
“I said I’m not happy with that and that’s not what it states in Max’s CIN plan and it’s the council’s statutory responsibility to provide what it states in his plan.
“It was then taken to a stage two complaint and independent investigators looked into it.”
Sophia’s complaint was subsequently investigated by Bob Cockburn and Baljit Nijjar.
She complained about three things - that there had been no parental consultation in the procurement of the respite services, that there was no ‘adequate respite’ offered at Christmas, and that sessions in the summer have reduced by two weeks.
The second complaint was upheld.
The report said: “The contractual arrangement between the local authority and Stride was to provide two days of respite during each week of the school holidays.
“A letter as sent to parents explaining the support at Christmas was to be in line with previous years.
“However, the actual provision fell short of the contracted level of service and also of the unplanned but agreed provision for Max.
“The fact that Max’s plan was not up-to-date was not his fault. In these circumstances I would recommend this complaint be upheld.”
Max received his three sessions back that he should have been involved with last Christmas.
Sophia added: “This has affected a lot of people and so I wanted the sessions being spread out over October half-term, February and Easter.
“I didn’t want the extra hours in ‘direct payments’ like the team manager had asked.”
Ofsted will inspect Barnsley’s SEND services next week.
Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, said: “The complaint has been independently investigated, and we have accepted the findings that Mrs Tattersall did not receive her full respite entitlement.
“We have offered Mrs Tattersall our apologies and have agreed that in addition to her usual respite sessions, we will provide a further four sessions.
“We are working with the provider to address this. We will use this experience to ensure we continue improving our ways of working.”