Council to pay £11k compensation to families despite ombudsman dispute

Alex Busk with parents Mary and Chris.

Alex Busk with parents Mary and Chris. - Credit: Busk family

Two families are to receive a total of more than £11,000 from Redbridge Council over its treatment of their sons, who have special educational needs, despite the authority contending it had done nothing 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, 11, who missed a year of school

It was criticised by ombudsman Michael King over a delay accepting his recommendation to pay £1,700 to the family of another young man. 

While in both cases council officers still disagree with the ombudsman, councillors agreed this week to pay up. 

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, 21, 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 11-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 Mr 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, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service 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.” 

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”. 

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Previously responding to the Busks’ concerns, a council spokesperson insisted decisions about support are made by “a multi-disciplinary team of committed staff”.

They added that the authority disputed the ombudsman's findings in their case and that a judgement was made "based on their perception of the role of local authorities” rather than what its “duties and responsibilities actually are”.

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.