Specialist Support Secured for Young Person with Severe Dyslexia
HCB Solicitors were recently instructed by Mr and Mrs B in April 2020. Mr and Mrs B came to us having fought against the Local Authority for some time to get an EHCP for their 11-year-old son F, who is 11 years old. F has a diagnosis of dyslexia, as well as difficulties with his organisational skills, and difficulties maintaining concentration and attention over time. F also has a number of social and emotional needs; he is very aware of the differences between himself and his peers and consequently lacked self-esteem and a sense of belonging within his school.
Mr and Mrs B had successfully managed to secure an EHC Needs Assessment of F’s needs, and the Local Authority thereafter agreed to issue F with an EHCP. Mr and Mrs B came to HCB Solicitors with a draft EHCP so that we could analyse this document and prepare a letter of representations to the Local Authority on the content of that Draft Plan. It was disappointing to note that the Draft EHCP issued by the Local Authority contained a wholly inadequate description of F’s Special Educational Needs, and Section F provided F with little to no specialist intervention. Section F also contained no specificity or quantification; leaving the EHCP vague in terms of what provision F would receive within a school environment, how this would be delivered (i.e. in a small group, or on a one-to-one basis), who the support would be delivered by, and how often the support would be delivered.
In addition to this, Mr and Mrs B had previously instructed a private Educational Psychologist so that they could gain a better understanding of the extent of F’s needs, and the provision he required to meet those needs. This independent Educational Psychology report was provided to the Local Authority as part of the EHC Needs Assessment process, however the Local Authority failed to incorporate any of the Educational Psychologist’s findings into Section B, and they failed to include any of the Psychologist’s recommendations in Section F of F’s EHCP.
The parental preference in this case was that F should be educated within a specialist independent school for children and young people with specific learning difficulties and associated difficulties.
We assisted our clients in the first instance by reviewing the draft EHCP and preparing the letter of representations to the Local Authority within 15 days of the draft being issued. Two days later, the Local Authority reached out to HCB Solicitors indicating that they wished to try and negotiate with Mr and Mrs B in the hope that agreement could be reached on F’s school placement, and also in relation to the content of F’s EHCP. It was pleasing to note that the Local Authority were willing to work with HCB Solicitors and with Mr and Mrs B to attempt to work together to reach agreement and to avoid an appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.
Where the Local Authority indicate a willingness to try and negotiate before a final Tribunal hearing, it is always advisable to err on the side of caution, as Local Authorities will sometimes use this as a delaying tactic to try and avoid an inevitable appeal for specialist provision. The Local Authority in this instance, however, acted reasonably, and agreed to finalise F’s EHCP at any stage in the negotiation process if we did not feel that we were making sufficient progress, so that Mr and Mrs B could lodge an appeal if necessary. Mr and Mrs B thereafter agreed that the best course of action was to try and agree matters with the Local Authority if that was to be possible, however also agreed that a Tribunal appeal may be necessary if sufficient progress was not made within a certain timeframe. The Local Authority were aware of this, and thereafter provided us with a Word version of F’s EHCP (also known as a working document) on which we made our own changes incorporate all of the amendments sought to the EHCP.
In addition to addressing the content of F’s EHCP through the working document process, HCB Solicitors were able to negotiate with the Local Authority in relation to Section I, and were able to reach an agreement with the Local Authority whereby Section I would name the specialist independent school as requested by Mr and Mrs B, on the basis that Mr and Mrs B arranged and/or funded F’s transport to and from the school on a daily basis. Mr and Mrs B were happy to reach agreement on this basis to avoid the stress and expense of a final Tribunal appeal.
After sending numerous versions of the working document back and forth with the Local Authority, both parties were eventually happy with the content of F’s EHCP, and the parental preference was named in Section I, subject to Mr and Mrs B providing transport.
Less than two months after HCB Solicitors had been instructed and representations had been made on a draft EHCP, the Local Authority issued F’s final EHCP which named the parental preference school in Section I. Section B now provides a detailed and accurate description of the extent of F’s Special Educational Needs, and includes the detailed findings covered as part of the independent Educational Psychologist’s assessment. Section F also provides F with the provision that he requires in order to make sufficient progress within an educational environment. It includes recommendations made by the Local Authority’s own Educational Psychologist, as well as those made by the independent Educational Psychologist instructed by Mr and Mrs B previously. This will ensure that F receives the specialist intervention that he requires going forward.
Shortly after agreement had been reached between the parties, Mr and Mrs B contacted HCB Solicitors and stated;
“it is a shame that it requires the help of solicitors to get the right provision etc, as one would hope that it should have been done thoroughly enough in the first place, but we are very pleased that we found your firm to represent us. Please thank the team.”
Unfortunately, it is all too common for Local Authorities to issue EHCPs which are simply inadequate. If you are facing any issues similar to that noted in the above case, and you would like to discuss how we could assist you in your particular circumstances, please contact our specialist education solicitors on 0333 2027175.