Parents Being Forced to Fight For Support Their Children Are Legally Entitled To?
A report highlighting a ‘crisis’ in Special Educational Needs (SEN) reflects an increasing number of parents seeking legal advice to fight for support their children are legally entitled to.
The report, Not Going to Plan, from England’s Local Government Ombudsman, describes a rise in the number of special needs complaints, with 87%, or nine out of 10 upheld in 2018-19.
The report suggests a danger that councils are unable to fulfil their statutory duties, with Ombudsman Michael King concerned that local authorities may be putting barriers in place to ration resources, rather than basing them on the needs of children.
Only last week, another report by the education select committee raised many similar issues as those identified by the Ombudsman, claiming reforms to improve the experience of SEN pupils and their families had been poorly implemented – with damaging consequences.
The committee said families were caught up in a system of “bureaucracy, buck-passing and confusion” that “breeds conflict and despair.”
Irwin Mitchell have been instructed in a large number of SEN cases across the country, where parents were forced to take legal action to enforce their children’s statutory rights and are now seeing other parents facing similar issues on a regular basis.
In August, legal pressure was identified by local campaigners as a key factor in Lancashire County Council shelving plans to end its Break Time Service for SEN children; while Irwin Mitchell recently represented a group of parents in bringing a legal challenge case against the Chancellor of Exchequer, challenging the amount of funding for SEN.
Expert Opinion“Not Going To Plan reflects the current crisis in SEN funding and the issues detailed in the report are ones we see on a daily basis.
Despite clear legal obligations, local authorities are failing in their duty to meet children’s needs, meaning that more and more parents are having to bring cases to the Tribunal, to get the support that their child is legally entitled to.
It is a sad fact that parents of children with disabilities, already having to spend lots of time providing care to their children, also now have to spend time fighting to ensure their child receives specialist support. We know that when we are instructed as lawyers to enforce the child’s right to educational support – councils sit up and take notice.” James Betts - Associate Solicitor