Herts County Council must pay a mother £900 after taking 15 months to update her autistic son’s education care plan.

An Ombudsman report found the delay caused “avoidable distress” and the boy missing key support “means that an already vulnerable young person has been further disadvantaged”.

The mother had complained that HCC failed to issue an amended Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – a legal document identifying a child’s needs.

The outdated report meant her son, who also struggles to control his emotions and has severe anxiety, had stopped attending his mainstream school by the start of 2020.

In December 2020 an emergency review meeting saw a draft EHCP issued in five days – but the final version in March 2021 had to be reissued a month later because it “contained errors”.

The amended EHCP determined he should be supported in a social, emotional, mental health setting that includes 1:1 literacy, emotional wellbeing and ‘letting go’ sessions.

“It is more likely than not the council would have arrived at this decision earlier if it had acted without delay,” the Ombudsman concluded.

A HCC spokesperson said: “We take the Ombudsman’s findings very seriously and where they find we have been at fault, we work hard to understand why it happened, how we can put it right and how we can prevent it happening again.

“Following this investigation, Hertfordshire County Council recognises and apologises for the difficulties faced by this family.”

They added departments involved have reviewed working practices amid rising demand for SEND support and linked challenges nationally and in Herts.

“In common with many local authorities, we are experiencing a high demand for specialist provision, with a 37 per cent increase in pupils with Education and Health Care Plans over the last three years, as well as the additional challenges due to Covid-19.

“We are making new investments into the SEND system and are fully committed to making sure that all children with SEND and EHCPs in Hertfordshire receive the support they need and deserve.”