Please note these figures are costs paid to SEN Legal. They exclude VAT which goes to the Government and disbursements (e.g. travel) as well as the cost of Expert Witnesses instructed by parents and Specialist Counsel.
The variation on costs, in any particular case, is bluntly, down to the conduct of the Local Authority involved, which we have no control over. A Local Authority's behaviour can drive parents' costs up quite considerably and out of the normal fee range for an Appeal of this kind.
We cannot give you a comprehensive break down of how much your case will cost, as there are many variable factors such as whether the case settles early or whether it needs to go to a fully contested Tribunal hearing. How far a case will develop is also largely dependent on the Local Authority, and its willingness to engage in the settlement process.
We find that the better prepared an appeal is in terms of the written submissions and supporting evidence, the better the prospects of success. There is also the very real possibility that upon having the written submissions and evidence disclosed to it, the Local Authority may reconsider its position and concede, thus avoiding the need for a SENDIST hearing. It goes without saying that the earlier the matter is resolved through settlement (if this is possible), the lower the costs will be. We are conscious of the financial burden litigation can impose on our clients, and over half of our SEND appeals do indeed settle before the Tribunal hearing date.
In order to enable us to progress your case as quickly and smoothly as possible you will be required to provide us with complete and accurate information, in good time to allow us to implement your instructions, this includes advising us of any holidays, deadlines or time limits which you are aware of which may affect your case.
We would also expect you to keep us informed of any changes to your personal circumstances, such as change of address, telephone number or email address.
SEN Legal's fees are based on an hourly fee structure, rather than by a fixed fee structure. The costs will therefore depend on how much work is done. We believe that this is actually in our clients' interests because if settlement is reached, you will not be obliged to pay us a fixed fee that would cover work up to and including a Tribunal hearing. In short, if we achieve a settlement for you, not only will you have achieved the desired result, you will also have saved money. Fixed fees do not offer such a saving.
Our professional fees will be calculated in accordance with the amount of time spent dealing with your case which will include time spent perusing your papers, analysis and research undertaken in relation to your case, drafting documents, telephone advice and other communications including emails and faxes as well as any attendance at meetings, hearings and Tribunals.
Unlike many solicitors we will not ask you for a large payment in advance because we bill on a monthly basis. There will be peaks and troughs in terms of billing. A qualified Solicitor will always be in charge of your case, not an unqualified paralegal.
We recognise that funding cases is always an issue for parents and we are happy to discuss and make suggestions as to ways of funding your case.
If you think you may be eligible for Legal Aid it is worth looking at the Eligibility Calculator on the Legal Services Commission website under the section “Can I get Legal Aid?”. This will take you to a computerised Legal Aid calculator, which is free of charge. Eligibility for Legal Aid is based on parental income and anyone who is not on benefits, or has substantial equity in their house will not qualify.
The Government has restricted Legal Aid work in this field to three Practices, two of whom are charities. The charities are:
Coram Children's Legal Centre
University of Essex
Tel: 01206 877 910
NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service)
freephone helpline on 0300 330 3131