Cornwall Council will look into the cases of all children not attending school to ensure they are receiving a suitable alternative education.

It follows an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, which was asked to investigate after a boy was not provided with appropriate alternative education for a number of months when he was not able to attend mainstream school because of mental health problems.

In Cornwall, alternative education provision for children with health concerns is outsourced to the Wave Multi-Academy Trust and education is provided by the Community and Hospital Education Service (CHES), an academy.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council did not have enough oversight of the process both schools in the county – including academies – and the council itself must follow when a child is out of education for a period.

It said in this case the council had now agreed to apologise to the boy and his father and make a symbolic payment of £1,200 to acknowledge the education he has missed.


The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council relies on schools to make referrals to CHES, and for the service to decide whether the council has a duty to provide education. In this case the council could not show it had considered the boy’s needs for the period he was out of education – March to July 2019. As the council is ultimately responsible for outsourced services, the Ombudsman has found it at fault.

It also found the council delayed the process by not directing CHES to provide education, and instead asking his school to make a referral to CHES, and so the boy missed out.

During the investigation, the Ombudsman also found the council was wrongly suggesting the boy’s school was responsible for monitoring his education through CHES. The council’s approach appears to make the school responsible for monitoring the council’s own performance of its statutory duty, it said.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Because the council did not have proper oversight of the process, the boy was left without education for four months. The council relied on schools to make decisions for which it had a statutory duty to make.

“While councils can contract out services to independent providers, they cannot contract out responsibility and remain ultimately answerable for any problems which may occur.


“I’m pleased Cornwall Council has accepted all my recommendations and hope the changes it will now make will improve services and accountability for those services for young people in the county.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services.

It said in this case the council has agreed to review its policies and procedures to ensure it retains oversight and responsibility for its duties to children unable to attend school.

It will also conduct an audit of children not attending school or not attending full-time, to ensure they are receiving suitable education and the council is meeting its duties towards them.

In a statement Cornwall Council said: "The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued a report following its investigation of a complaint against Cornwall Council. The complaint was about lack of Education. The Ombudsman found that there had been fault on the part of the Council, and this had caused injustice to the complainant.

"Cornwall Council accepts the report which relates to circumstances in 2019 (the outcome of the Ombudsman’s investigation had been delayed due to Covid lockdowns) and has apologised to the family concerned.  Work started back in November 2019 to ensure these circumstances will not be repeated again. The authority has also agreed to take action which the Ombudsman regards as providing a satisfactory remedy for the complaint.

"The Council will now consider the report and tell the Ombudsman within three months (or such longer period as the Ombudsman may agree) what action it has taken."