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(UK) Government being taken to court for failing to provide SPED services

June 26, 2019, Independent: ‘Education is a right’: Parents of children with special needs launch legal fight to get government to fund school places Families of children with special educational needs who are being denied school places because of swinging funding cuts have taken a legal challenge against the government to the High Court in person. A campaigning group of parents say councils are so starved of funds they are unable to meet their legal obligation to provide education and support to young people with special needs and disabilities (SEND). They joined campaigners and supporters for a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice ahead of the hearing challenging the government. The crowd chanted “education is a right, we shouldn’t have to fight” and “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts” as they held placards that told the stories of SEND children who felt hopeless. Funding cuts to SEND are being challenged locally across the country – but this is believed to be the first time that parents have taken direct action against the government. … Lorraine Heugh, mother of Nico Heugh Simone, who has autism, still does not know whether her 15-year-old son will be given a funded place in a college next year, despite winning multiple tribunals…. The landmark case, believed to be the first time the government has been taken to court over SEND funding, is also being brought by the families of Dakota Riddell and Benedict McFinnigan. Kirsty McFinnigan said her 14-year-old son, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and chronic insomnia, has not been in mainstream school for two years amid cuts. She said: “So many councils across the country are struggling and it is shocking to think the government has simply taken no action at all – the current situation is just not working.” Speaking at the demonstration on Wednesday, Mary Riddell, mother of Dakota, who has cerebral palsy, global development delay and muscle disorders clonus and dystonia, called for urgent action. … Group founder Gillian Doherty, founder said: “The message to Philip Hammond, to Damian Hinds and to our next prime minister couldn’t be clearer – they must take urgent action to provide the support disabled children need and to which they have a legal right. “This is the 21st century, in one of the richest countries in the world. Our children are being failed by a system in a tailspin. It’s appalling that parents have had to take their own government to court to try to resolve this crisis.”… Speaking about the thousands of SEND children without a school place, Mr Courtney said: “It is absolutely shameful in the fifth richest country in the world. It is completely unacceptable that we are in this position.” Analysis from the National Education Union this week revealed that more than 8,000 young people with SEND are awaiting provision for a school place. … In August, parents of children with special educational needs won a landmark case after taking Bristol City Council to the High Court over £5m cuts to the SEND budget. A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The government’s ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities is no different to any other child – we want them to enjoy school and achieve to their full potential. “This is why we are investing significant funding into supporting those with more complex special educational needs - high needs funding totalling £6.3bn [$8B (US]) this year.


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