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Bristol City Council ‘Investment’ To Fight Send Families at Tribunal

Bristol City Council has allocated £200k of money in its budget to pay for the legal costs associated with providing support to children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send).

We discovered the sum of money listed under ‘Investment Proposals Within The People Directorate’ in budget papers going to Cabinet this month.

Listed under ‘Educational Improvement Service Pressure’ the £200k has been allocated specifically to ‘legal costs for tribunal cases’.

Tribunal cases occur in Bristol when families feel forced to take the council to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) – Sendist.

This tribunal handles appeals against Local Authority (LA) decisions around Send provision. It includes such things as appealing for a child to have an education health care needs assessment, the contents of an EHCP, schools named in the plan or even maintaining a plan when an LA decides not to.

Statistics released in December 2022 and analysed by Special Needs Jungle’s Matt Keer found that nationally, LAs had a 3.7 per cent success rate in the 5,600 hearings which took place in 2021/22.

A public What Do They Know Freedom of Information (FOI) request made regarding Bristol’s statistics in August 2022 remains to be answered by the council.

Barrister Alice de Coverley Tweeted on January 11 2023 that the Tribunal service for Send issues was then running on a 52 week timetable meaning families forced down this route would be waiting a year for a hearing.

Alice said: ‘The FTT is currently running on a 52 week timetable for new EHCP appeals. 52 weeks, a YEAR, for a hearing.

‘These are vulnerable, disabled children and young people, who are often out of education completely, with increasing mental health difficulties, without any or any appropriate special educational provision or social care support. Ridiculous.’

The news of the investment was not warmly received in Bristol, where the council has recently been told it must heal the ‘fractured relationship’ with parent carers in its recent Ofsted and CQC Send re-inspection.

One Send parent reacting to the news said on Twitter: ‘This is like a lesson in what NOT to do to repair a relationship with parents that’s completely fucking fucked. £200,000 investment in battling parents at SENDIST where LAs win 3.7% of cases. £192,600 down the swanny. That could pay for 38 kids to see a SaLT each week.’

The papers which the investment proposals were in will be considered by Cabinet this month and form part of the recommendations for council to approve at the budget meeting on 21February 2023.

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