Families Concerns On “Unlawful” Decision To Be Heard At Judicial Review Hearing This Week
Parents challenging a local authority’s decision to cut funding to special educational needs (SEN) provision will take their fight to the High Court this week.
Waltham Forest Council announced in March that it would be decreasing funding for pupils with Educational, Health and Care Plans by 10 per cent, where they attend a mainstream school and where they receive funding in either “band E” or “band F”.
The decision was made despite opposition from a number of parents and teachers of children affected. A campaign group Waltham Forest SEND Crisis is also supporting the legal challenge, which will continue with a two-day judicial review hearing at the High Court on 29 and 30 July.
Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law and Human Rights team, which is representing two families involved, argue that the council’s decision to cut funding was unlawful and that the cuts will leave children in a position where the provision outlined in their EHC plans cannot be provided to them, placing the Council in breach of its legal duties.
Expert Opinion“This is an important case about the rights of children to receive properly funded special educational needs support in school. It is understandably a concerning time for the families and schools affected by the funding cuts imposed by Waltham Forest Council. The families strongly believe it will have a detrimental impact upon their children, as schools will be provided with less money to meet the requirements set out in their individual EHC plans.
“The council has said that schools can apply for further funding if the cuts impact upon the children’s provision, but it is unclear how this would work as there is currently no process in place. We have heard from a number of parents in the borough who are already concerned about a lack of provision for their children, and they fear that these cuts will only make things worse.”
Caroline Barrett - Senior Associate Solicitor
The first child represented by Irwin Mitchell is six years old and attends a mainstream school.
His school has already had issues with a lack of funding to meet the provision set out in the F-level care plan. It took 16 months for the council to agree to increase his funding band, and his mum is concerned that the 10 per cent cuts will further impact upon the provision that he gets.
The other child is nine years old and also attends a mainstream school.
Her school is also in the process of trying to obtain additional funding to meet the needs of her E-level EHC plan. She requires a one-to-one support assistant, but this provision has been reduced in recent months. Her mum said this has led to difficulties at school, and she is concerned that any further reductions in funding will “make the situation worse.”
A spokesperson for the Waltham Forest SEND Crisis campaign group added: “We are so proud of the two families bringing this case to challenge Waltham Forest Council's decision to cut education support for children with special educational needs and disability.
"Many families of children with additional needs in Waltham Forest would recognise their plight. It can be extremely difficult to secure the support our children need to access an education on the current funding levels. School budgets are overstretched so they can no longer subsidise a shortfall in funding from the local authority. A cut to funding would impact on so many children in the borough, limiting their potential now and in the future.
"The impact of these cuts will be made worse by the pandemic, our children have been getting minimal support during this time, and will need more help when they return to school in September not less."
The hearing is being heard in the High Court remotely by video on 29 and 30 July 2020.