Advice (including legal) for statutory assessment process(11 Posts)
[new year, new name - old poster]
We are realising (painfully) that our lovely DS (HF ASD) really does need a statement to support him at school. We will request the assessment ourselves, but we'd like some good quality support in negotiating the process and making sure the statement best provides for his needs. IPSEA website has basic info and I've never managed to get through on their phone line; parent partnership basic non-committal advice but they are good at being available on the phone. It all falls to us to get it right. We would really like (and are fortunate to be able to pay for) some legal advice on what we're doing - can anyone recommend a lawyer (DH wants lawyer to look through our intial request letter)? also any great book and / or other source of help?
Have you approached the school - they will have the documentation that you need? They should be your first port of call before you involve lawyers.
I was told that two lawyers are good - one is Robert Love and the other is Eleanor Wright at Fisher Meredith. Robert Love actually spoke to me for 30 mins on the phone and then didn't charge me, which I thought was decent, and using his advice I was able to get a statement without going to tribunal. His number is 01452 521286. I don't know the number for the other lady but you could google. Everyone always recommends Melinda Nettleton but I am not so sure, as a friend of mine was not so keen recently. The barrister to use is apprently John Friel (sp?) if you ever get to tribunal. good luck Marvin!
Just so you know Melinda Nettleton & John Friel are married. Not something she openly shares with SEN Legal clients, which I'm pretty sure the Law Society has strict rules about...
Olivia - I'm a client of both and it's common knowledge. I personally can't see there being a conflict of interest?
I recently came across someone who had spent tens of thousands with Melinda Nettleton and John Friel and still hadn't completed their appeal. It appears that she makes a big thing about how she doesn't charge fixed fees and comes out cheaper than those who do, but in practice that isn't so. However, there presumably isn't a conflict in her instructing John Friel provided that she tells her clients the facts and provided they are satisfied that she is instructing him for the right reasons.
Eleanor Wright is now at Maxwell Gillott. Elaine Maxwell from the same firm is also very good.
KeepCalmGoCrabbing Its common knowledge in some areas but not others. They definitely dont disclose to all their clients I have met some upset people. Re why there is a conflict of interest, under the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, a solicitor should not act if they have a material interest in a certain action. See www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/content.page. If you are married to the person you are instructing thats a pretty clear material interest to me!
I am confused about this whole process, and feel exhausted by it all.
We have struggled for years to get our son's social, educational and communication difficulties acknowledged - mainly because he is quiet. He is now nearly 14 and it took us to not send him to school (although he was still on the school role) stay in another area in the country and access the GP and CAMHS there to get us to the point where we have just had an ADOS back where we live, he is under safeguarding due to the bullying he is now getting at school, and therefore we got a TAC set up - which has forced the school to admit he is working at level 3 in most subjects (which has been denied up to this point).
They have made noises about a dyslexia test and an IEP, but these have not been done, and they have taken him out of some lessons and given him 'extra' maths/english (primary school sheets which he is struggling with) but have not got a TA for him, have not got the SEN at school involved. It is an academy school, and they are also saying they won't get in an ed psych as the school won't pay for it - he is not disruptive. They have been saying they are waiting to hear about the ADOS to decide what they will do next, which didn't happen until the end of this school year, so there will be nothing in place for him when he goes back. I cannot describe how much we have been fobbed off, judged and let down during this 8 year process, but the reality is we are still left with a child who is very different from his siblings, has no friends, is highly vulnerable and suggestible, has little empathy and poor social skills, has sensory sensitivities, feels more comfortable around much younger children and is not moving forward at school.
I get it - more than get it - that no one 'cares' besides us, but we cannot continue to support him into young adulthood and beyond without some extra support. The services are not denying that these factors are there, they just don't seem to address them (beyond meeting after meeting) because he is not 'diagnosed'. It appears to us that if he was aggressive at school, we let him wander the streets regardless of the consequences or if we had not bothered trying to supplement his education at home to our utter exhaustion (he has full on meltdowns if all his techniques for avoiding schoolwork don't work - they obviously work at school, but we don't let them work at home - although I guess the meltdowns still get him out of it!) we would have had more help, and earlier help. Maybe.
Anyway, sorry to digress - the psychiatrist has been in touch to say that whilst he has 'autistic traits' it is not enough to diagnose autism, but it is clear he has social and communication issues which she says is SEN, although we have not received her full report yet. She has referred to the Speech and Language service (?) which is health and not education, and once again for safeguarding (he had been punched in the face by another child on the school bus a couple of days before the assessment) but has said now to get him help we need to go to an SEN disability tribunal and to look at IPSEA. What does this mean in reality? How long is this process and what are the choices if you lose? (as I say, regardless of ADOS or SEN assessments he is still struggling! And so are we!) We cannot afford to pay for a solicitor - so what do we do?
We have obviously wanted to change schools - but have been suckered in to the 'wait until the ADOS' as it seemed AS was likely, so we could find a school best suited to his needs, but now we are still no clearer what 'officially' those needs are.
Sorry for the length of this, and yes, I feel a complete failure as a parent but if anyone else has been locked in battles involving these services (Education, CAMHS, social care) who do not seem to communicate effectively with each other please let me know we are not alone in this nightmare.
Firstly, I suggest you repost in the separate Special Educational Needs section further down the main page, under Am I Being Unreasonable.
Secondly, have a look at the IPSEA website for advice on how to start the process - you need first to make a formal request for statutory assessment. You might not have to go to tribunal, so don't start worrying about that yet.
Thirdly, if you do have to go to tribunal, contact the SOS SEN helpline. They run workshops which help parents to be able to deal with tribunal appeals themselves.
Marvin - unless you know you're in an LA that is known to be hostile to requests for SA, it's a bit early to be involving lawyers. The IPSEA letter is sufficient for most purposes. Relevant documents from school can only help your case (so long as school aren't doing an ostrich act) and if you're not going to get any cooperation, there, then your money might be better spent on a private Ed Psych report, to start with. You'll find lots of people with the full range of SA experiences on the special needs chat or children boards as well as recommendations of professionals that people have found useful.
Abu - it's worth you having a peek at those particular boards, too. Sad to say that you really are not alone
Ipsea offer tribunal representation so it is worth speaking to them.
As for getting lawyer's involved for a statutory assessment, I'd personally advise to save the money. Solicitors will charge for this and I have seen parents pay between 3k and 7k. The bizarre thing is that I won my first ipsea case for a child where the lea were refusing to assess. This was as an ipsea volunteer and it cost the parents 0.00. Please get in touch if you want to chat.
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