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Families Seek To Appeal Hackney Council Special Educational Needs Judgment

High Court Judgment Handed Down

12.04.2019

Andrew Hewitt, Press Officer | 0114 274 4255

The families of children affected by Hackney Council’s policies on Special Educational Needs and Disability (“SEND”), including a reduction in its expenditure on special educational needs, are continuing their legal fight.

The High Court has today handed down judgment in the case following a judicial review hearing last autumn. The judgment rejected arguments that the council’s policies were unlawful.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law and Human Rights team is acting for four families who believe that their children, who have a range of needs, are not currently accessing the level of essential support that they require from schools operated by the council.

The families are continuing to press for changes to the council’s use of ‘resource levels’ which determines the level of funding schools receive to meet a child’s SEND needs.  The council allocates funding according to one of five bands, rather than calculating the specific cost of the provision each child requires . The families also challenged the council’s decision in 2018 to reduce the amount of funding allocated to each of these bands by five per cent.
 
The families have lodged an application for permission to appeal against the High Court’s decision to uphold the banded system and reduction in funding and are awaiting a decision.

Expert Opinion
“The families believe that Hackney Council’s approach fails to ensure schools have sufficient funds to meet the actual cost of provision for children with SEND, who are some of the most vulnerable in society.

“While the families are thankful to the court for examining the case they have decided to seek permission to appeal. By doing so they hope that the council will adopt a policy in which funding is allocated according to the specific provision identified for each child, and reverses its cuts to expenditure on SEND, so that children get the vital specialist support that they require.

“It is important to note that the judgment does not prevent other families from being able to challenge cuts to budgets or services as each case is based on its individual facts and merits.”
Anne-Marie Irwin, Senior Associate Solicitor

The judicial review also examined the format of Hackney Council’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans. The families argued that the format of Hackney’s plans fail to ensure that provision is linked to a child’s needs. Instead, Hackney’s plans now link provision to the ‘outcomes’ sought by the council.   

During the course of proceedings the council agreed that it would draw up a plan which separates out needs, provision and outcomes, if this is requested by a parent or guardian.

A landmark judicial review challenging how central government funds SEND services is to go ahead in the High Court as planned in June.

Families represented by Irwin Mitchell believe that current government grants are leaving councils across the country without enough money to fulfil their legal obligations towards pupils with SEND.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's work in supporting families of children with SEND.