ANONYMISED DECISION OF THE TRIBUNAL
Type of Reference: Timescales
The mother (“the appellant”) has made a reference to the Tribunal in relation to a failure on the part of the education authority (“the respondent”) to comply with the time limits laid down for the preparation of a co-ordinated support plan in respect of her son (“the child”). This reference is made in terms of section 18 (3) (c) of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (
2. Decision of the Tribunal
The Tribunal upholds the reference and directs the respondent to produce a co-ordinated support plan for the child by 31st January 2007.
3. Preliminary Matters
4. Summary of Evidence
The Tribunal considered a bundle of evidence containing the case statement for the respondent. One item of late evidence was received from the appellant and was dated December 2006.
The Tribunal also heard the oral statement of the appellant in relation to her concerns in relation to the child and his educational needs being met.
5. Findings in Fact:
- The child is 9 years old having been born in February 1997 and lives with his parents and his sister. The child attends primary school. In February 2005 the child was diagnosed with diabetes and requires a regime of regular monitoring of his blood sugar and administration of insulin. The child has limited awareness of when he is hypoglycaemic. A Healthcare Plan has been established for him which includes the provision of a support assistant.
- The appellant sought an assessment for a co-ordinated support plan by letter dated April 2006. The child was considered by the multidisciplinary CSP Steering Group in May 2006 and it was agreed that the child’s needs would be considered complex. Further information was to be sought in relation to identification of educational needs. The respondent wrote to the appellant in August 2006 confirming that the decision of the education authority was that a co-ordinated support plan be opened for the child. A date for completion of the plan was given as end September 2006.
- A drafting meeting took place on mid-September 2006. Parties were in disagreement in relation to the nature of the co-ordinated support plan. A further meeting took place on mid-October 2006. A further meeting was due to take place on mid-November 2006. This meeting was cancelled because a number of participants were not able to attend. The respondent has delayed in producing the co-ordinated support plan. The process was not moved forward to producing a co-ordinated support plan because there remained areas of disagreement in relation to the objectives of the co-ordinated support plan.
- A meeting has been scheduled to take place on mid-December 2006. The respondent will be in a position to produce a draft co-ordinated support plan to that meeting. The draft plan will thereafter be circulated to relevant parties for comment.
6. Reasons for decision:
The Tribunal considered all the evidence which was sufficient to enable the Tribunal to reach a fair decision on the reference.
On behalf of the respondent it was acknowledged that there had been a delay. Reasons for this were given as being due to the unusual nature of the case, the holiday period over the summer and the failure to move the process forward due to the areas of disagreement between the parties. It had been hoped by the respondent that the process would be moved through to produce a co-ordinated support plan acceptable to all parties. Accordingly, there had been a reluctance to produce a co-ordinated support plan merely to meet timescales. It was submitted that following the meeting in mid-December 2006, a draft co-ordinated plan would be circulated and even in the event of disagreement at that stage, it is likely that a co-ordinated support plan will be produced shortly thereafter. That will be a decision for Head of Services.
On behalf of the appellant it was highlighted that notwithstanding the timescales the respondent has still not produced a draft co-ordinated support plan. If there is no agreement between the parties in relation to the content that position will continue. Request by the appellant in relation to an ICT assessment has not received a satisfactory response. There is a need to move things forward by producing a co-ordinated support plan. If the content of the co-ordinated support plan is an issue then that is a matter that could be brought back to the Tribunal.
It is clear that there has been a lengthy delay in producing the child’s co-ordinated support plan. It was initially intimated by the respondent that the co-ordinated support plan would be in place by end-September 2006. The reason that the co-ordinated support plan has not yet been produced is because the parties have been unable to agree in relation to the content of the plan. In addition the meeting of mid-November 2006 was cancelled due to the non-availability of a number of participants. It is accepted that part of the delay in moving the process forward was a desire on the part of the respondent to produce a plan which would be acceptable to the appellant and would meet the educational needs of the child. This has resulted in time limits not being met. The respondent now needs to produce a co-ordinated support plan. If the content of that plan is not acceptable to the appellant then she has the right to make a reference to the Tribunal in terms of section 18 (3) (d) (i) of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (
A meeting is scheduled for mid-December 2006 when parties will discuss a draft co-ordinated support plan. The draft document is to be circulated to all relevant persons by the respondent within a few days of that meeting. Two weeks was suggested as a suitable period for comments to be submitted, following which a co-ordinated support plan would be produced. Taking into account these factors and allowing for the inevitable inaction over the Christmas and New year holiday period, the Tribunal is content that the respondent has sufficient time to produce a co-ordinated support plan in terms of this decision.
The respondent indicated that mediation had been offered to the appellant. The offer of mediation remains in relation to what should be in the co-ordinated support plan and could take place not withstanding any other ongoing process.