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I’m a partner at Irwin Mitchell, heading up their Bristol office’s Public Law & Human Rights department.
I have experience in a broad range of public law practice, and specialise in community care, healthcare and medical treatment and education law (including representing parents at special educational needs and disability tribunals). I’m also experienced in cases in the Court of Protection regarding mental capacity, best interests and deprivation of liberty.
I’m regularly instructed by the Official Solicitor to act on behalf of vulnerable adults on a range of health and welfare matters including capacity to marry or engage in sexual relations and disputes about contact and residence.
I’m involved in a number of pro bono initiatives and regularly deliver legal advice workshops to parents, carers and charities. I have recently been appointed to the Law Society's Mental Health and Disability Committee. My role involves:
My reported cases include:
In October 2014, I won the Bristol Solicitor of the Year accolade at the Bristol Law Society awards. I was also shortlisted for Solicitor of the Year at the Law Society Excellence Awards in 2015.
I was appointed to the Law Society's Mental Health and Disability Committee in October 2015.
I was awarded the title of Assistant/Associate Solicitor of the Year at the Birmingham Law Society Legal Awards 2012. I was also ranked as a “Star Associate” in the Chambers and Partners 2014 for Court of Protection: UK-wide and an “Associate to Watch” in the field of Education Law: UK-wide.
I spoke at Cerebra's annual conference about the legal rights of disabled children in October 2014 - you can hear what I had to say in the video below.
Her "commitment to protecting the rights of disabled children and adults is obvious. She works 24/7 to get the right outcome and is not afraid to take on complicated and challenging cases, providing a clear voice in the often chaotic world of SEN and public law." - Chambers & Partners, 2017
According to market sources she "is a metronome of dynamic physical and mental energy - there is nothing she does not know the answer to. Or if not, she will find out and develop a strategy to deal with the most complex and difficult cases. She is what we all aspire to." - Chambers & Partners 2016
"She is clever, kind and compassionate. Simply outstanding." - Chambers & Partners 2015
She is described as "always going the extra mile," according to sources. She handles difficult disability discrimination and special educational needs cases, and is praised for being "energetic, committed, supportive and bright." - Chambers & Partners 2014
Polly Sweeney is an "amazingly talented claimant lawyer" - Legal 500 2016
Polly is "knowledgeable and experienced" - Legal 500 2015
Polly is "exceptional" and displays "outstanding client care skills" - Legal 500 2014
Polly "Combines being an excellent lawyer with fantastic people skills." - Legal 500 2013
“We are pleased that the council has agreed to keep the MET base in Redditch open and children will be able to continue to attend from the start of the new term pending a proper consultation which will allow parents and children to contribute to the decision making process.
“The Redditch MET base provides an important service to children locally and the decision to close without any notice has caused many families considerable worry and anxiety over the summer.
“We hope that the council will now work with the families to ensure that the right decision is reached in relation to the future of the base”.
“The High Court has confirmed today that local authorities should not be criminalising unauthorised holidays in term time by alleging that there is a failure to regularly attend school simply by looking at the period of holiday absence.
“When looking at whether attendance is regular, local authorities should consider the “wider picture” including overall attendance record. In this case, a 93% attendance record was sufficient.
“The ruling will have significant implications across the country for local authorities who will no longer be able to prosecute parents simply for taking children on unauthorised holidays during school time when the child otherwise has good attendance at school.
“The decision clearly raises serious questions in relation to the current practice of issuing fixed penalty notices and I anticipate that there will now be many more parents refusing to pay these fines.
“What is clear is that there needs to be much greater clarity on this issue for all concerned – in particular for Head Teachers and Schools who will still be left only being able to authorise absences in exceptional circumstances.”
It is incredibly worrying to see such postcode lottery concerns emerge in relation to the support and specialist help that children with special educational needs are able to access.
"The level of support available should never be determined by where a family lives, so it is safe to say there are clear questions regarding the processes under taken by local authorities on this issue.
"Consistency is absolutely requisite and we would urge the Government and councils to work together to ensure a fair, quality system is in place which ensures no child is left behind in terms of the help they receive."
We are pleased that the Court has accepted our arguments regarding the lawfulness of the Defendant's Local Offer and hope that this Judgment sends out a message to local authorities that they have to take their new duties introduced under Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 seriously.
“The Court also emphasised the importance of local authorities having a register of disabled children so they can plan properly for budgets and services to support them. However, we are very disappointed that the Court has ruled that disabled children are not automatically entitled to a social care assessment and we are concerned that this Judgment will leave disabled children across the country in a vulnerable position without access to proper assessments.
“We also remain of the view that the Defendant has not consulted properly on its final proposals to limit access to social care services. We intend to apply to renew our application on these grounds to the Court of Appeal.”
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