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Law Firm Launches Legal Action Against BNSSG ICB Over Bristol Autism Row

Solicitors acting for Bristol families have now started legal action challenging Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (BNSSG ICB) about what they call ‘harmful changes’ to autism assessments in the city.

Assess for Autism has spent the last month crowdfunding to launch legal action after a restrictive criteria was introduced by Sirona last month. This saw many children and young people blocked from being able to have an autism assessment in Bristol.

The campaign group successfully reached their crowdfunding target, meaning they have been able to send a ‘letter before action’ to the BNSSG ICB this week.

Assess for Autism said: “We are pleased to inform you that the legal letter, which is known as a letter before action, has been sent to the ICB. This formal letter outlines our legal claim against the ICB and allows them to settle the matter if they so chose.”

“While we hope that the ICB will take the necessary steps to resolve the issue, we are prepared and fully committed to pursuing legal action if necessary. We will keep you updated on any further developments.

Rook Irwin Sweeney posted on Twitter saying: “We are acting for clients in Bristol who are challenging the local ICB’s new criteria for accessing #autism assessments. A letter before claim has been sent and a response is due by 12pm on 26 April 2023.”

In a letter to BNSSG ICB – a proposed claim for judicial review – Rook Irwin Sweeney say they are challenging the decision taken by Sirona – in partnership with the ICB. This decision was to implement ‘specific criteria in order for children to be able to access an autism assessment’. This was done ‘without any prior consultation or Equality Impact Assessment being undertaken.’

The law firm says this was an ‘unlawful failure’ by the ICB, directly leading to ‘excessive waiting times’ as well as the implementation of the criteria.

They are asking for the new autism assessment criteria to be removed as well as a review of funding for the autism assessment services. This should be ‘with a view’ to increasing investment in the next financial year.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, entered the chat at the end of March, saying that Bristol City Council ‘wasn’t consulted on their decision.’

He said: ‘In a productive call on Tuesday, our Executive Director of Children and Families and I took the time to highlight the concerns of local parents SEND groups, which we share.’

Rees also said they have ’emphasized for Sirona to engage with parents, schools and councils, and hope to work more closely with Sirona in the future in line with our Bristol One City Approach and values.’

This is despite Rees being behind the council’s decision to pull funding to the Parent Carer Forum in Bristol last year. It also comes in the wake of a row which saw Bristol City Council become embroiled in accusations of unlawful covert surveillance of Send families as well the number of Sendist tribunals soaring during his mayoral term – and alongside a crop of successful Send education LGO complaints.

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