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Lawyers Demand Rethink On Hackney’s ‘Unlawful’ Special Educational Needs Policies

Legal Experts Representing Affected Families Apply For Judicial Review

22.05.2018

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Lawyers acting for families who are challenging Hackney Council’s decision to cut its special educational needs budget have submitted an application to take the ‘unlawful’ decision to judicial review.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law and Human Rights team is acting for four families who believe that their children, who have an array of special educational needs, are not receiving the essential support they require at several schools in the area.

The legal experts, who are also acting for families affected by similar problems in regions including Surrey, have now applied to the High Court for a judicial review to be held into the legality of Hackney’s proposals.

Families, who have been granted legal aid, are arguing that such issues have arisen as the council’s banded system for funding such support is inadequate. They are also challenging the council’s recent decision to cut the amount it spends on each child with special educational needs in its area and that recent changes to the format of Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans used to assess support requirements are also unlawful.

Expert Opinion
We have heard extremely worrying first-hand accounts from our clients regarding what their children have faced.

“Through our work, we have come to the conclusion that the council’s policy on funding support is unlawful as it fails to fulfil the absolute requirement to ensure each child gets the help that they require. In addition, the amount of funding available has been reduced by an arbitrary figure which has nothing to do with children or young people’s needs.

“We are also concerned that the changes made to the EHC Plan mean decisions on provision can be made without having a child’s needs properly in mind.”
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate Solicitor

The London Borough of Hackney operates a banded funding system through its ‘Resource Level’ policy which was recently cut by five per cent. Irwin Mitchell is arguing that the change was made without consultation with the affected families, while the tiered system offers no flexibility to ensure sufficient funding is provided for each child.

Lawyers for the families argue that the new format of the EHC Plan used by the local authority is contrary to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice and may mean that children may not be getting the support to which they are entitled.

Expert Opinion
Local authorities have a clear duty to ensure that children with special educational needs are able to access the support they need and we have significant concerns that this simply is not happening in Hackney.

“We would urge the council to urgently review its current standpoint on this issue as a matter of priority.”
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate Solicitor

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in handling public law and human rights cases.