We are highly successful specialist Education Solicitors. We have particular expertise in obtaining special educational provision for children who have special educational needs that require specialist input. The provision we are able to obtain for children works very well, enabling children to fulfil their potential. We are able to help you achieve the best outcome for your son or daughter whether you are looking for support for your child within a mainstream setting or whether you are looking for a placement at a specialist independent school.
We approach families who have been let down, treated wrongly or unfairly on the basis of a sympathetic understanding, that by the time parents reach us, they are at the end of their tether and despairing about persuading their LEA to make appropriate provision for their Child's Special Educational Needs.
Many parents, when first refused provision, think that they haven't perhaps explained their case adequately or effectively and then engage in a long series of meetings and letters in which they try and make LEA's “understand”. Sometimes relationships between parents and officers can become extremely strained.
Parents often feel that they are just strung along or put off from appealing rather than being helped. They may have been told that there is not enough recorded evidence, they should try again later, it's too early to assess. This may happen a few times. Meetings are arranged leaving parents no further forward. Meetings with officers whose role is just to explain the decision taken, rather than someone who has decision making powers, is enormously frustrating, particularly when parents have had to go to enormous lengths, to make arrangements to enable them to attend these meetings
Many parents complain about experiencing criticisms of negativity following genuine and legitimate expressions of concern about progress or inclusion.
Parents perceive an attitude problem. There is an institutionalized delay. Parents complain Local Authorities move at the speed of a turning oil tanker. Working together, which is emphasized by the Code of Practice, does not mean how high should we jump or that the statutory agencies (Education, Health and Social Services) are working together against parents to achieve shared underlying objectives.
Parents, sometimes articulate professionals themselves (including Lawyers who do not specialise in this field) believe themselves misled by officers, who whether consciously or unconsciously give information about their own Local Authority's and Health Service's policies rather than what the Law and Code of Practice says.
We also understand that the Special Educational Needs of children can put an enormous strain on families. This is not unusual. Not only is meeting the Child's needs a demanding and exhausting task within the family, they find fighting the education system and sometimes Health and Social Services as well an uphill and soul destroying task. Many parents report that if dealing with their Child's Special Educational Needs were not an already sufficiently challenging task, dealing with LEAs, the Health Service and Social Services department often feels like taking on an additional part-time job.
Many parents know what is provided now, can affect their child for the rest of their lives and become increasingly concerned as time drips by. We take the view that provision delayed is provision denied.
One common complaint is that Local Authorities say in the interest of Working Together that they do not want to finalise Statements until parents are happy with them. There is however no Right of Appeal to the SEND Tribunal until the Statement is finalised.
An Appeal is often as fast if not faster (4-5 months from submission of the Appeal to the hearing date) than lengthy negotiations with a clear and transparent outcome based on evidence of the Child's needs and the Law.
It can be an enormous relief to parents worn down by the system, to stop and hand over their cases to someone else to sort out, and not to have further direct dealing with their Local Education Authority officers.
Local Authorities have a job to do. They are responsible for making provision for Special Education Needs. The legislation envisages the delivery of provision by means of Statutory Assessment which may be followed by a Statement of Special Educational Needs or Note in Lieu (in terms of provision, not worth the paper it's written on).
That sounds simple enough but Local Authorities or public authorities, cash starved with insufficient numbers of well trained experienced staff. Whilst many individual Local Authority officers are conscientious and committed, they face an impossible task (i.e. the allocation of resources to those children identified as having SEN) this is impossible for Local Authorities to be fair on the budget they are allocated. They are under resourced and Special Educational Needs isn't fashionable. Consequently most Local Authority staff will privately acknowledge that decisions are resource led.
Like many other things in life, the public services you pay your taxes for aren't in reality there when you want them. Instructing us is a way of getting your Child's right to the best chance in life realised. If a child is without an appropriate education, the future is lost for your child.
Whilst we accept that Local Authorities have a job to do, our sympathies lie with parents and children. As a practice, we have never accepted instructions from Local Authorities, our clients are in the main, parents and grandparents. Many of our clients come back to us at crucial phase transitions in their Child's education, such as Primary to Secondary school transition and Post 16 provision.
Whilst we have a reputation for robust representation for our clients, the practice value is based on every Child's right to an education and the provision of therapeutic input or Social Services provision irrespective of means. There is nothing in the legislation or Code of Practice which contains an “If we can afford it” proviso.