Families Speak Of How ‘Cruel’ Plans Will Affect Them
Families opposing a council’s plan to cut over £20 million from services supporting disabled children have asked specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to take up their challenge.
Four families angry at Surrey County Council’s proposals to slash millions from budgets that fund schools and services for children with special educational needs, have instructed expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who have successfully challenged other cuts to local authority budgets across the country.
Irwin Mitchell has now written to the local authority calling on it to overturn its ‘unlawful’ decision or face a potential Judicial Review.
Expert OpinionThe proposed cuts would impact on some of society’s most vulnerable people, with the county council itself recognising that there are now 7,700 children needing education, health and care plans in Surrey, an increase of 44 per cent over the last eight years.
“Whilst we appreciate the very severe budget pressures local authorities face, councils still have a duty to ensure spending decisions affecting frontline services are lawful.
“It is our view that the county council’s proposals are unlawful, including as a result of the failure to undertake any kind of consultation on its 2018/19 budget cuts. It is manifestly unfair for the council to set its budget without any consultation with those who will be affected by the significant spending cuts.
“We call on the county council to reconsider its decision and engage with those who will be severely affected by this decision.” Alex Rook - Partner
Surrey County Council intends to reduce its schools and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) budgets by over £20 million. They fund services such as school transport and provisions for children with special educational needs to stay in mainstream schools.
Irwin Mitchell has been instructed to act on behalf of five children – Kian Hollow, Dominic Ferris, Zoe and Sean Butler and Kyffin Carpenter.
Kian, 14, has Autistic Spectrum Disorder, ADHD anxiety and speech and language difficulties for which he receives specialist therapy sessions.
Kian, who lives in Farnham, relies on council-funded transport to take him to school in Roehampton because his mum Alicia, who also has a 12-year-old daughter Bella, and son, Edoardo, 20, works full-time as a Project Management Officer
Alicia, 44, said: “The council’s decision is just cruel. Obviously we would like the council to announce that it intends to look again at its budget. However, if needs be the families are determined to fight this all the way.
“Kian has made good progress since he started going to school in Roehampton. He has his GCSEs coming up in the future and I want him to get the best possible grades he can. The upheaval he will go through if he doesn’t continue to receive the help he needs is going to damage his grades and his life chances.”
Zoe, 14, and Sean, 12, from Guildford, have both been diagnosed with autism, and attend schools which are 21 miles apart. Zoe boards at Limpsfield Grange in Oxted while her brother relies on daily transport to take him to the council-maintained Linden Bridge, in Worcester Park.
Their mum Debbie, 42, said: “Although we miss Zoe so much during the week when she boards at school, we know it is best for her because she really wasn’t coping with traveling 72 miles a day to get to and from school.
“If Sean lost his transport or Zoe her boarding, there’s no way we would be able to cope. It would be impossible for us.
Kyffin, from Sunbury, Kyffin, from Sunbury, has a rare neuromuscular condition which affects his mobility, feeding and he communicates via signing.
The three-year-old requires one to one support when attending White Lodge Nursery in Chertsey.
Mum Sarah Jones added: “The support that Kyffin receives at nursery is fantastic. He has made great progress with his vocalisation and his physical development.
“I’ve got nothing but praise for the way the nursery looks after Kyffin and if that was to end it would be devastating for him.”
Dominic Ferris, 14, has a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum disorder with traits of Pathological Demand Avoidance. He is supported at his specialist school by a mentor who works with him to reduce his severe anxiety levels. Dominic relies on council funded transport to take him to his school in Roehampton, where he has benefitted immensely from services and provisions such as tailored curriculums and as a result he has been able to access mainstream after-school activities such as Explorer Scouts and Cadence Marching Band.
His mum Catriona Ferris, said: “I am shocked that we were not consulted at all, and it really feels like the families of those affected have been completely ignored in the decision-making process. We want to have our voices heard.”
Irwin Mitchell have instructed specialist barrister Stephen Broach from Monckton Chambers to advise on the case.
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