It took the best part of a year for Mark and Shelley Gill to get an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) sorted for their five-year-old son Albie.

The youngster, who has ADHD and a complex speech disorder, is now in a school where he is happy and his needs are largely addressed.

But that was not achieved without considerable headache for the family.

Mr Gill, a 36-year-old operations director from Sutton in south London, told the PA news agency: "Almost every deadline that has been set (self-imposed or statutory) has been breached by Sutton Council; there is a constant failure to meet deadlines."

The family submitted a request to have Albie assessed in September 2018, but it was turned down.

The Gills then had a meeting with Cognus, the company contracted to manage Sutton's school support services, which agreed to assess Albie.

But Mr Gill said the assessment was "less than thorough".

"The working document submitted not only failed to include what we thought was an appropriate level of provision; a lawyer advised us that provision was not adequate and that the document was unlawful because it didn't meet requirements for specificity," he said.

"The local authority said Albie may require someone to do some speech therapy.

"But the special educational needs lawyer said the law must be more specific, i.e. that Albie must receive 60 minutes of speech therapy by a qualified professional.

"The reason they do that (lacking specificity) is it allows the school to interpret that to the lowest possible cost. If it's vague you can't hold them to account."

Mr Gill said the local authority recommended a school for Albie, but it was only through their own investigations when they visited the site and spoke to the headteacher that they realised it was completely incompatible with his needs.

"Our conclusion was that it would be harmful to him," Mr Gill said.

"Their cohort had different needs to him. It was clear the pupils' potential was, on the whole, a lot less.

"There were a lot more behavioural issues, a lot of noise, disruptive, chaotic school. Albie can't access education in that environment.

"We met the head there; she admitted it was unlikely her school was suitable."

Albie is now settled into another school, although the Gills are appealing over his current EHCP to ensure his needs are met.

"It very much feels like you have to be good at playing the game, negotiating," he said.

"We have been successful but not every parent has access to that information."

Mr Gill estimated that the family spent around 200 hours working on Albie's EHCP, forking out £10,500 on legal advice, to obtain a private assessment of his needs, and to fund private speech therapy which Sutton failed to provide.

"We have made contact with many dozens of parents.

"The EHCPs are legal documents, they're quite complex and hard to understand.

"You can read it and think that sounds all right. It's only when you get legal advice that you realise it doesn't meet the needs.

"We've met many parents who either don't understand the documents, or they have disabled parents.

"A lot of parents don't have the energy, the expertise maybe."

A Sutton Council spokesman said: "We work with parents, carers and health care professionals to make sure every child in Sutton goes to a suitable school and receives the appropriate support.

"School places are considered by panels of local experts and our processes and procedures are currently subject to rigorous professional review.

"All school places for children with education, health and care plans, whether in a special or mainstream school, are based on evidence.

"We consider the views of parents very carefully. Every child in Sutton is provided a suitable school place and we cannot comment on individual circumstances."