A COUNCIL that was made to pay £850,000 to educate a girl with severe special needs rejected the advice of its educational psychologist.

As reported in The Northern Echo, Darlington Borough Council was taken to a tribunal over its decision that an 11-year-old girl should be educated at Beaumont Hill Special School.

The child, who cannot be named, is autistic and is at the mental level of an 18-month-old.

Her family argued she needed round-the-clock health and social care, as well as education, and would have to leave the area to receive it.

The Northern Echo has seen a confidential report, which reveals the recommendation of the educational psychologist, who agreed with the girl's parents, was overruled by the council's education department.

The family's legal representative, Chris Close, of Advocacy in Darlington, said: "The council is employing people on fairly decent salaries to do jobs and then when they choose to, they will simply ignore what these people say because it does not suit them financially."

He added: "The problem is that Darlington is relying on one school to provide its special needs education, and that school cannot meet all the needs of all the different client groups."

Following the tribunal's ruling, the girl is now given full-time care at a residential school in the Midlands.

The council will have to pay £170,000 a year for five years to pay for the girl's education -a total of £850,000.

Next year, the council's education department will have a budget overspend of £165,000.

Mr Close said that by ignoring the advice of an educational psychologist, the council was likely to incur more expense as a result of future tribunals and said he believed it could exacerbate the problems of youngsters with complex needs.

He said: "If you do not meet the need of that particular child at a certain time... then the need becomes greater.

"It makes the situation worse and causes a massive amount of distress.

"The reality is that the authority expects the families of these children to cope not just with their psychological and emotional needs, but also their physical needs, and these kids have quite complex needs."

A council spokesman declined to comment on the matter because of confidentiality, but said the council would be happy to talk to parents about any issues.