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(UK) "Rising numbers of parents" sue over special education services; fighting for help

Dec 21, 2019, News Shopper: Southwark Council spends five times more than Lambeth on SEND care plan tribunals https://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/18116875.southwark-council-spends-five-times-lambeth-send-care-plan-tribunals/ Southwark Council has spent nearly five times what neighbouring Lambeth has on disputes with parents over their children’s SEND school care plans since 2016/17. Rising numbers of parents are contesting their children’s education health and care plans (EHCP) or statements, in which the schools assess the special educational needs and disabilities of pupils. Many feel the plans downplay the level of disability, leaving their children without access to the care they need, be that a special needs school, or extra facilities in mainstream schools. According to a Freedom of Information request, Southwark has spent more than half a million – £560,000 – on battling parents in tribunals since 2016. In stark contrast to the national average, the council has won in the majority of the 218 cases. The Times reported earlier this year that since 2015, councils have spent £100 million fighting parents at tribunals, but have lost nine out of ten of cases. In the year 2016/17, Southwark spent £86,300 on 37 tribunals and won nearly nine times out of ten (86 per cent). The following year the council spent £137,749 on 54 tribunals, of which it won 85 per cent of the time. In the year 2018/19, the number of appeals rose to 74 – double the amount two years’ previous – with parents winning 20 per cent of the tribunals. Southwark Council spent £235,196. Between April and September 2019, there were 53 appeals, £102,793 of public money spent, and two tribunals won by parents so far. Lambeth, on the other hand, spent just over £58,000 in the same time period on 108, which when doubled equates to five times less than what Southwark has spent on the same number of appeals. Lambeth managed to come to agreements with parents outside of court in the majority of cases. … “Parents do have the right to appeal these decisions and the council looks at each case individually, looking at the statutory and legal criteria before making the decision to defend a case. Our track record speaks for itself. “We understand that parents want the best for their children and we believe we are providing the best support and good value for public money.”