Crisis in special educational needs drives parents to court

The Guardian is reporting that a funding shortfall for children with special educational needs has led to a surge in court appeals, as families turn to legal action to secure extra help from cash-strapped councils.

With a 26% rise in the last financial year in the number of court appeals by families, MPs are warning of a crisis in special needs care. It is the third successive year that an increase has been recorded. The total of 6,374 appeals lodged in 2018-19 was almost double the number of three years earlier, according to analysis by the Special Needs Jungle website.

A backlog of cases is growing, and more judges are being recruited to deal with the workload. And after almost a decade of funding cuts to local authorities, families are now challenging the government at the high court over its funding for Send.

Gillian Doherty, founder of the parents’ campaign network Send Family Action, said: “Tribunal figures have almost doubled since 2015, and the system is under so much pressure that three-quarters of tribunals are being postponed. Families are appealing and winning in 89% of cases because judges recognise the legitimacy of their challenges.

“Local authorities simply don’t have enough money to meet their legal obligations to children with special educational needs. Provision has been eroded to the point where the entire Send system is collapsing.”

Ministers have argued that funding for children with the most complex needs has increased from £5bn in 2013 to more than £6bn this year. However, the children and families minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has acknowledged the huge “cost pressures on high needs budgets” for local authorities. An extra £250m in funding was allocated last year and 37 new special schools had been approved, the minister said.

Speaking at the Together for Education rally in Westminster on Saturday, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an end to austerity and warned the government that continuing with the policy would lead to greater inequality, underfunding and “more and more underachievement”, especially for those from the poorest backgrounds or with special needs.

Read more Crisis in special educational needs drives parents to court 

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  1. Judith Wilson

    There is absolutely no excuse the Government can come up with for failing to recognise that this crisis has been in the making for years. As a mere teaching assistant, it was obvious to me and my fellow TAs that disaster was looming as far back as 2006, with budgets being cut, resources being few and far between and staffing levels falling to a ridiculous low. The education of our special needs children has NEVER been prioritised as it should have been…nobody listens to those of us ‘at the coal face’ who deal with the devastating outcomes on a daily basis.

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