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(UK) Derbyshire: Parents forced to battle for SPED services in court; council loses

Sept 23, 2022, Derbyshire Times: Derbyshire families of children with special needs are ‘let down’ by system, claims councillor Derbyshire County Council has a low success rate when it comes to defending Education, Health and Care Plans in court. https://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/politics/council/derbyshire-families-of-children-with-special-needs-are-let-down-by-system-claims-councillor-3854168

E. Midlands

Derbyshire families left fighting for care plans for children and young people with special needs are being ‘let down’ by the system, a councillor claims.

Leader of the North East Derbyshire Lib Dems Councillor Ross Shipman submitted a Freedom of Information request to the authority, which revealed it had only successfully defended 5.8 per cent of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) taken to court in the last three years.

EHCPs identify educational, health and social needs for children and young people aged up to 25 years who need additional support.

Of the 13,171 EHCPs the council processed between January 1 2019 and December 31 2021, 522 were disputed, and of the 86 that ended up in court, the council only won five.

Coun Shipman commented: “The evidence is clear, hundreds of families across Derbyshire are having to go through hell to get EHCPs that are right for their children.

“These figures won’t show the full picture either, they are missing those situations where parents have had to go to the local government ombudsman after not being offer an EHCP at all, and those who decided not to pursue the decisions through the legal system to get a better offer from the county council that they may have deserved.”…

Coun Shipman added: “The county council will have spent thousands on solicitors trying to defend the indefensible, and this has been going on for years, so who knows the real cost to tax payers for these bad decisions.

“The cabinet member for children’s services, Julie Patten, and the leader of the council, Barry Lewis, need to get a grip of this issue and fast.

“Families are being let down year on year by their inaction, as well as all the added stress fighting for something their children are entitled to.”

A Derbyshire County Council spokesperson said: “We work extremely hard with families to try to reach agreement with them about their child’s educational provision and in the vast majority of cases this happens without the need for escalation.”

They argued that over the last three years only four per cent of the thousands of EHCPs the council is responsible for have been disputed, and in the small number of cases taken to a tribunal they continued to work to try and reach an agreement.

The spokesperson continued: “On average over the past three years a solution was found in 78 per cent of cases which were disputed before the cases ever reached the tribunal court….

The council is in the process of reviewing its current special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) service model and says it will be working with families, children, young people, schools and partners to co-produce a new strategy, taking into account upcoming Government reforms….

“As the local education authority, we have a duty to ensure we make the best use of taxpayers’ money in order to benefit all the children who need our support.”

Leader of the North East Derbyshire Lib Dems Councillor Ross Shipman submitted a Freedom of Information request to the authority, which revealed it had only successfully defended 5.8 per cent of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) taken to court in the last three years.

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