A crowdfunding effort by parents with children who have special educational needs and disabilities (Send) to take legal action against the Secretary of State for Education has almost hit its target in just a few days.
The group of parents have formed SEND Family Action and say that ‘Special needs funding is in crisis’. They blame funding from central government for failing to make sure that local authorities are able to meet statutory responsibilities for children with disabilities.
The funding is needed to support legal costs including legal advice, costs, investigative work and pre-action letters. If the group’s legal team says there are grounds to issue a claim, they will then be applying for legal aid to take forward a judicial review.
Specialist Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell are working with the families to bring about the legal challenge about the lawfulness of the current arrangements and further calling on Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to increase funding to local authorities.
“Through our work in helping families of children with special educational needs we have seen the increasing strain local authorities are being placed under because of budget cuts,” Anne-Marie Irwin Associate Solicitor says.
“The issue of councils being able to fund specialist services is a growing problem with concern that an increasing number of local authorities are failing to meet their statutory responsibilities to disabled children.
“The families are concerned that local authorities are not receiving enough funding so wish to investigate whether there are legal grounds to challenge the government over its funding support.
“They believe that thousands of children across the UK with special educational needs are currently unable to receive the support that they need.”
Cuts to Send funding are being challenged across the country. Parents in Bristol won a judicial review against Bristol City Council which forced them to stop cuts to Send funding and announce a plan to protect it into next year’s budget.
Friday 28 September saw 1000 headteachers from across the country campaigning at Number 11 Downing Street for more funding for schools and colleges.
Research from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) finds that some three-quarters of school leaders believe they simply won’t be able to balance their budgets next financial year.
This is supported by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) which said in March that the number of secondary schools in England running at a loss had almost trebled in four years.
In the summer, the Institute for Fiscal Studies also reported that total school spending per pupil fell around 8 per cent in real terms in England between 2009/10 and 2017/18.
General secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, Paul Whiteman said: “School funding is the public service cash crisis that the government refuses to deal with. It’s still a doorstep issue for voters, and until the Treasury announces more money for education, school leaders, governors, parents and others will continue to make their voices heard.
“Head teachers are not normally the marching kind. So, when they do, it must be serious. They’re sick of being told that there’s more money in education than ever before, when what they see with their own eyes every day proves that it’s just not enough. More and more now, children succeed despite the system, not because of it. And that can’t be right.”
SEND Family Action, is appealing for people to continuing donating to its appeal. With 25 days left to go, it has already reached £9,372 out of its £10,000 target.
You can find more information about the legal challenge and donate here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/disabled-children-vs-secretary/
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