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Caroline Barrett from Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law & Human Rights department acted for a 19-year-old woman with cerebral palsy and complex disabilities, in challenging the local authority’s decision to no longer fund her residential college placement.
Our client, Daisy, had been educated in mainstream schools up until the age of 16, but had found it extremely difficult and couldn’t cope in a mainstream environment. The local authority subsequently agreed to fund a specialist residential college for Daisy from the age of 16 onwards, because it was acknowledged that this was the only type of placement that could meet her needs.
Daisy had attended her residential college for three years. She wanted to stay at the college so she could develop independence skills that would enable her to move into supported living.
Earlier this year, the local authority carried out an updating learning disability assessment under s.139A of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, to see how Daisy’s educational needs could be met. The assessment concluded that Daisy needed to continue attending the same residential college for a further year in order to complete her current course and prepare her for supported living. However, the local authority subsequently refused to fund the placement, and relied on the use of a “funding panel” to determine that Daisy’s needs could be met at a local mainstream college.
How we helped
Daisy’s parents asked Irwin Mitchell to challenge the local authority’s decision. At the time of our instruction there were only a couple of weeks until the start of term and so we urgently asked for the local authority’s decision to be reconsidered within a short timescale. When there was no response from the local authority, an urgent letter before action was sent, alleging that the local authority had acted unlawfully and irrationally by failing to follow the outcome of the learning disability assessment, and by allowing its funding panel to make decisions about how Daisy’s educational needs could be met. We invited the local authority to fund the residential college for a further year on an immediate basis, saying that otherwise we would issue urgent court proceedings.
Following our letter before action, the local authority reconsidered its position and agreed to fund Daisy’s residential college placement with immediate effect. Daisy has subsequently returned to college and is staying at the college full-time. She is very happy to be back.
‘The college is life-changing’
Daisy’s parents said: “We are overjoyed that Daisy is able to continue her education at National Star College and to take advantage of the superb education, care, facilities, and opportunities that the college has to offer. The college is life-changing.
“When we phoned Irwin Mitchell we were almost at breaking point, but when Caroline agreed to act for Daisy it meant that her 'voice' was heard, her needs were met, and her wishes were acted upon. Daisy has been so happy since she returned to the college that she hasn't even contacted us!”
Irwin Mitchell regularly challenges funding decisions that are taken by public bodies to ensure that people’s statutory rights are not breached. Local authorities may unlawfully rely on funding criteria when assessing an individual’s needs, and in those circumstances legal advice is available. For expert advice on education law please contact Caroline Barrett on 0370 1500 100 or complete our online enquiry form.
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