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Education and support secured for young person with anxiety and ASD Background

J is now 18 years old and has a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Condition, anxiety and depression. Cognitively J is above average and in relation to her attainment, she was considered to be achieving in line with her peers. J’s difficulties began to escalate in year 8; she could no longer cope in a maintained mainstream secondary school. She felt different from her peers and struggled to find her identity. She has sensory difficulties and a high level of anxiety which made her feel as if it was impossible for her to cope within a large mainstream secondary class.

Mrs A contacted HCB Solicitors in January 2018 when the Local Authority refused to carry out an Education, Health and Care Needs assessment for J. At this time J was only receiving 3 hours of 1:1 tuition at a small centre attached to her mainstream secondary school. She had significant involvement from CAMHS and Autism Outreach. Sadly, she had attempted to take her own life and was rarely leaving the house.

We lodged an appeal immediately with the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and the Local Authority quickly conceded this first appeal. An Education, Health and Care Needs assessment was carried out but failed to include contributions from the Speech and Language Therapy Service or the Occupational Therapy Service. Following this assessment, the Local Authority refused to issue an Education, Health and Care Plan.

A further appeal was lodged by us and despite strong evidence provided by J’s secondary school, an independent Educational Psychologist and CAMHS, the Local Authority proceeded all the way through the appeals process culminating in a Tribunal hearing. They lost. The Tribunal ordered that the Local Authority must issue J with an Education, Health and Care Plan.

The Local Authority failed to issue the draft EHCP within the required timeframe causing the family to instruct us once again to prepare a pre-action protocol letter threatening Judicial Review proceedings. On receipt of this letter, the Local Authority issued a draft EHCP.

J voiced that her preference was to attend an independent specialist college for young people with ASD. The college was based over 200 miles away from her home and therefore; she would have to stay there on a residential basis. Mrs A spoke of how J had voiced that they understood her at this school and she would be around other people who were similar to her making her feel accepted. She said that she was nervous about living away from home but had accepted that this was the only way for her to be able to achieve her dreams of attending university.

The final EHCP was issued, paying minimal attention to the parental or young person’s representations. The Local Authority refused to name the specialist college and named a mainstream further education provider in Section I of J’s EHCP.  By this time J had been out of Education for almost a year.

This resulted in a third Tribunal appeal being lodged and further evidence obtained by the family in the form of an independent Occupational Therapy report and assessment information from the College, where J had completed a successful trial and been offered a place.

The Local Authority continued to oppose the appeal on the grounds that the placement was an unreasonable use of public expenditure and that their choice was more than capable of providing a suitable setting for J.

Final Order

The final hearing was postponed, due to a lack of tribunal time and resources. The appeal was finally heard in July 2019. J was successful and a fully funded 38 week residential placement at the independent specialist college was ordered by the Tribunal, with a finding that the further education provider suggested by the Local Authority was unsuitable for the following reasons:

  1. No information regarding peer group or cognitive ability of pupils within the further education setting put forward by the Local Authority
  2. Only access to English and Math GCSE, no option to complete additional GCSE and A – Level qualifications. J is capable of far more and wants to study a range of GCSE subjects.
  3. J required specialist highly qualified teachers with experience in teaching those with ASD, the further education setting could not provide this
  4. A 4 day week was being offered, this was not suitable. J required a full time education
Conclusion

Mrs A contacted HCB Solicitors shortly after the successful result and stated:

“it was a wonderful result and I just wish you could see the effect that this has had on her. She is suddenly able to move forward with her life and can see that her dreams are attainable” “J, having lived mainly in pyjamas, decided a shopping expedition was indicated to get nice jeans and tops ready for starting in September and we had a lovely time wandering around the shops. I know and so does she, that she will face some challenges but at last she is going to get the help she needs in order to cope”.

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