I specialise in helping people resolve disputes with local authorities about education, health and social care.
My clients include parents of children with special educational needs, disabled adults, and vulnerable young people.
I regularly represent parents and young people in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. I’ve had lots of success ensuring that local authorities complete Education and Health Care (EHC) needs assessments and issue lawful EHC plans.
I’ve secured several high-value independent special school placements for my clients and also act in relation disability discrimination and judicial review cases. I am regularly instructed by schools and colleges to advise on safeguarding matters (safer recruitment and BDS checks), COVID-19 related matters, and Special Educational Needs and Disability issues (SEND).
I also represent people in need of support from social services such as care leavers, children under 18 that are unable to live at home, young people leaving custody and disabled adults that require more support than the council are willing to provide.
I also deliver training to a wide range of organisations including schools, charities and parent carer forums, on issues such as Special Educational Needs, the Equality Act and Community Care law.
Re Z (A Child: Deprivation of Liberty: Transition Plan)  EWHC 3038 (Fam) – This case involved a plan to help a 14 year-old child transfer to a residential school, designed with input from professionals and the child's parents. The plan foresaw a need to deprive the child of their liberty with both physical and chemical restraints. The Court confirmed that this aspect was outside of the scope of parental responsibility and needed authorisation.
L (An Infant), R (On the Application Of) v Buckinghamshire County Council  EWHC 1817 – in which, for the first time, the High Court considered the law in relation to Children’s Centres
What inspired you to get into law?
I studied law at university and saw how important it was in ensuring that people’s rights were protected.
My interest in special educational needs law was sparked following time working as a teaching assistant supporting children with special educational needs.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
Knowing that the outcomes we achieve make a real difference to the lives of our clients.
It's also a really interesting area to work in. The law is changing all the time and no case is the same as the last. The work is ever more crucial in the current climate, in which local authority budgets are being slashed and local authorities are having to make increasing amounts of unlawful decisions.
This makes it even more important to challenge decisions with judicial review and Tribunal appeals and make sure that local authorities meet their legal obligations to children and adults in need of support.
What do you like about working at Irwin Mitchell?
Working as part of a team dedicated to getting the best results for their clients.
What do you do away from the office?
I have a season ticket at Manchester United but this hasn't been that fun since around the time Alex Ferguson retired.
I love cooking and eating out and, in my younger days, dabbled in music promotion, bringing bands from as far away as the USA, Canada and Sweden to the north of England.
"He is extremely knowledgeable about educational law - he knows what arguments to take and often sees points that others don't. He is very focused on the needs of individual families and takes a good strategic view on cases." - Chambers & Partners 500, 2021 (Star Associate)
"James Betts combines a first-class knowledge of education law with a warm and engaging personality. Clients love him for this. He has increasingly worked on major judicial review cases in the education sector, such as on SEN funding cuts." - Legal 500, 2021
"This is the second time we have instructed James Betts to help us with a named placement on an ECHP and he was again, excellent, efficient, thorough and knowledgeable, thank you James" - 5* Trustpilot review
"Excellent advice, support and representation for the purposes of a first tier tribunal appeal regarding an EHCP and Section I placement in particular. Thank you!" - Trustpilot review
"We knew for years that our son’s EHCP was not adequate enough and challenged our local authority on this for a long time, sadly to no real avail. With the support of James Betts at Irwin Mitchell, we have been able to finally get the outcome we have wanted, which will enable our son to receive everything that he needs whilst in the school setting." - Rowena Tassell, 5* Trustpilot review - read the full review
"With the support from James Betts from Irwin Mitchell we were able to ensure my son is educated in an environment that will give him the best chances in life. I found James Betts from Irwin Mitchell to be highly professional, has an eye for detail and has an outstanding understands SEN law. Irwin Mitchell as an overall company was equally professional. I would wholeheartedly recommend Irwin Mitchell." – Donna, 5* Trustpilot review
"James has been a fantastic support to both me and my daughter through a really difficult time. There is no way we could have navigated the legal processes without his help. In particular his willingness to work with other legal teams finding creative solutions for our unusual situation. We are so grateful our daughter now has a much more secure future, close by to us." – Helen Taylor, former client
"Our son has Special Educational Needs and we needed help to secure both the best school placement for him, and also the correct support and therapeutic input via his EHCP. James has been extremely professional, prompt and knowledgeable throughout, and I have no doubt that without his input we would not have been successful in achieving what our son needed. We would highly recommend James to any parent fighting to secure the correct provision for their child.” - Parents of a client (Trustpilot review)
"We were fortunate to have the services of James Betts from Irwin Mitchell for a dispute with our local authority [over] our son’s EHC Plan not being funded properly. Irwin Mitchell took the stress off my shoulders and also helped me access legal aid as my son is over 18. I’d definitely recommend contacting Irwin Mitchell to advise and act for your child or young person if you are in a similar situation." – Deborah, 5* Trustpilot review – Read the full review.
"Help when you need it most – I would have no hesitation in recommending Irwin Mitchell, and especially James Betts, to anyone needing assistance with a care provision problem with a local authority. We received excellent support and contact with James was straight forward and told us exactly what we needed to know. We always felt that we were the most important part of the case and the outcome was exactly what we asked for in the first instance. James was the strong and knowledgeable support we needed when all else had failed." - Trustpilot review
"He's very tenacious, very thorough and very detailed in his preparation." – Chambers & Partners, 2020
"He's very efficient and very friendly. He kept our child's best interests and welfare at the heart of everything." - Chambers & Partners, 2019
"A client notes: 'James is very pragmatic and it has always been evident that he genuinely cares about achieving the best outcome for the client. I have always found him to be very accessible, easy to work with, and extremely professional at all times." – Chambers & Partners, 2018