Families Launch High Court Challenge Against Govt Special Education Needs Funding Policy

Families Launch High Court Challenge Against Govt Special Education Needs Funding Policy

CategoryNews Author Jenni Richards KC Date

Families have officially launched a High Court legal challenge against the government’s special education needs funding policy which is leaving “thousands of children across the country in limbo”.

Jenni Richards QC, instructed by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, is acting for a number of families who believe that their children, who have an array of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), are not receiving the essential support they require.

The legal experts have now asked the High Court to give the green light for a Judicial Review to be held into the legality of how the government provides funding to local authorities.

The families from North Yorkshire, Birmingham and East Sussex, believe that current government grants are leaving councils without enough money to fulfil their legal obligation of providing care for pupils with a range of disabilities and conditions.

The application comes  after education watchdog Ofsted said earlier this month that it was a “national scandal” that thousands of children in England diagnosed with special educational needs were missing out on support. Following the weekend’s announcement that the Department for Education had pledged an additional £350 million for SEND funding Ofsted added there was still “a long way to go” before children with specialist needs receive “the support they deserve.”

The families have launched a campaign group called SEND Action. The group is calling on Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to increase funding to local authorities.

The families have raised funds through an online crowdfunding campaign and have been granted legal aid to bring the challenge.

Jenni is also representing families of children with special education needs in Hackney, Surrey and Somerset who are opposing local authority cuts to services in their area.

Judicial reviews to decide the legality of Surrey County Council’s and Hackney Council’s decisions to reduce their SEND budgets have been heard with decisions due at a later date.

According to the Department for Education:

  • Pupils with identified SEND account for almost half of all permanent exclusions.
  • Pupils with SEND are up to six times more likely to be excluded.
  • The number of pupils with SEND without a school place more than doubled from 2016 to 2017 from 1,710 to 4,050.
  • More than 4,000 SEND pupils were left without a school place last year compared with 776 in 2010.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has been campaigning against local authority funding cuts for the past seven years.

Ian Noon, the charity’s Head of Policy and Research said: “A complete crisis is unfolding across the country for children with special needs.

“From the work we do with deaf children, we see councils cutting the services these children depend on at an unprecedented rate. Parents are distraught, battling for ever decreasing levels of support. Specialist teachers are being cut each and every year. While at the same time, official Government data shows that deaf children’s grades at school have started to get worse.

“It’s fundamentally wrong that parents have to take a case to the High Court to get the support their children are legally entitled to. The Government must do far more before this crisis in special needs education spirals out of control, and we have a generation of lost potential from children who have so much to give.”

James Robinson, Policy Lead for Children and Young People at Mencap, added: “When children and young people with a learning disability miss out on the right Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) support, their health, social care and other areas of their life can also be negatively impacted.

“The SEND reforms provided an opportunity to help address some of the barriers that some children face by focusing support on the individual needs and ambitions of the children and young people they are being implemented to help. But this will only happen if there is sufficient funding in place.

“The additional £350 million announced at the weekend is welcome, but will not stretch far enough to drive the improvements that we, and the families of people with a learning disability, urgently need to see.

“With the number of people with a learning disability in this country on the rise, the time is now to ensure sufficient funding and support for today and tomorrow’s young people with a learning disability.”

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