Derbyshire County Council 'failing the most vulnerable children', Lib Dems claim

Derbyshire County Council's Matlock headquarters.
Derbyshire County Council's Matlock headquarters.

Derbyshire County Council has hit back after the Liberal Democrats accused the authority of 'failing the most vulnerable children' in the area.

According to the results of a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Lib Dems, the council successfully defended just 4.35 per cent of cases where education, health and care (EHC) plans were disputed in 2018.

An EHC plan is a legal document which describes a child or young person's special educational needs, the support they need and the outcomes they would like to achieve.

Ross Shipman, the Lib Dems' Parliamentary spokesperson for North East Derbyshire, said: "The Tory-controlled council is failing the most vulnerable children in Derbyshire - and in the vast majority of cases the courts are finding against them. "It's absolutely terrible.

"In 2017, only 7.92 per cent of the cases were successfully defended by Derbyshire County Council and in 2018 this figure fell to 4.35 per cent. This highlights the extent of Derbyshire County Council's failings in children's services since the Tories took over.

"Of course the biggest unknown is how many parents chose not to dispute the EHC plan. These figures could just be the tip of the iceberg."

A council spokesperson said: "We work very hard with families to try to reach agreement with them about their child's educational provision.

"If they wish to go to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal we continue to work with them throughout this process and in many cases do reach agreement before it concludes.

"Of all the cases that went to tribunal last year 54 per cent of those which had been completed by the time we carried out some analysis in January never reached tribunal as we reached agreement with the family beforehand, and in a further 10 per cent of cases agreement was reached at the tribunal by way of a consent order which means the case was neither won or lost by either party.

"When a case goes to tribunal it is often related to a disagreement about the education placement the council has secured for the child and the authority has to carefully consider whether to agree to the family's request for their child to attend another establishment or to stand by its original alternative decision which it may feel is just as suitable for that particular child and offers the same and appropriate level of support. As the local education authority we have a duty to ensure we make the best use of taxpayers money in order to benefit all the children who need our support.

"Our position in Derbyshire reflects the national picture and the challenge many other councils are facing in what is one of our most sensitive and complex areas of work but we are committed to working with families to secure the best possible educational future for all our children."