SEN – Special Educational Needs.
Perhaps you are the parent or grandparent of a child with special educational needs. Children with disabilities, depending upon their condition and severity, may require a Statement of Special Educational Needs the purpose of which is to set out the child’s needs (part 2) and their entitlements (part 3) to meet those needs. The process of obtaining a statement can be difficult and all too often requires legal advice. SEN law and SEN legal advice should be simple as it is supposed to be about “meeting needs.” Unfortunately, it is not; and getting the right advice early can make a big difference.
More often than not a local authority may not agree to statementing, or will agree, but issue a statement that doesn’t provide sufficient detail to specify the entitlements that meet the child’s needs. Statements can often be refused, or when offered so vague so that they cannot be enforced by way of judicial review. It’s hard enough getting a statement, but then to get one which doesn’t meet the child’s needs can end up causing frustration.
Local authorities are faced with ever tighter budgets and further cuts on the way. It’s often the case that whilst they want to do what is right, they simply don’t have the funds. Most, if not all, the LEA SEN managers are good, hard-working people. However, like you and I, they are being asked to cut costs. They are simply doing their job and there simply isn’t enough money to meet everyone’s needs. As a result, you as a parent or grandparent are faced with a dilemma. Accept the refusal to assess, accept a statement that does not meet needs, or appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Service. It’s really is that simple.
Whilst I recommend all parents to negotiate with the LEA about their child’s statement, I can’t help but feel that if an impasse is reached, the appeals procedure is the only real recourse to resolving a stalemate. Appeals can take up to 6 months from the date of submission; and whilst this might seem a long time, it can often end up quicker than endless negotiations with the LEA. Having an appeal lodged does not prevent you from negotiating. Quite the contrary, from experience, I have found that once an appeal has been lodged, both sides are aware that a Judge and Panel will want to see evidence of REAL negotiations. The hearing date, although 6 months down the road, really does focus minds.
So, whilst I don’t recommend tribunal as a matter of course, I do accept that for some parents with difficult cases, it may be the only avenue available to resolve the matter. If you are the parent or grandparent of a child with SEN, then please get in touch for free SEN advice. Although I am not a lawyer, I have trained with a national charity that provides tribunal support. I have represented parents at tribunals and have been through the process for my own daughter, twice!
I am able to provide parents with advice not only on Special Educational Needs, but also on Community Care. When parents are struggling with more than one child, it can be difficult to cope without support. In this respect, I can offer advice on how to go about requesting Community Care from social services in the form of a CORE assessment and / or a careers assessment. Whilst educational needs are key, having respite and social care is equally important.