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tribunal advice - how important is it to have legal representation and independent professional reports?

(13 Posts)
pinkorkid Sun 19-Dec-10 12:10:20

Some background: we have received ds' final statement which doesn't name the special school we wanted, still mainstream. I was slightly surprised when told it had been finalised as I thought we were still negotiating about best placement for him. But I guess LEA were making sure they met legal deadline, regardless of "completeness" of statement. Lea had agreed to put his case to special schools placement panel, but because of delays in various professionals submitting reports (and snow) he has missed out on being considered by panels before Christmas. Barring any other delays will now go to panel in early January.

I am staring at sendist appeal form now and feeling a bit daunted. I feel that the paperwork I've filled out so far has been by and large ignored by lea - our parental evidence and objections to draft statement certainly don't feature much in his final statement. Does anyone know how much weight 1) Special Schools Placement Panels, 2)Send Tribunal give to parental views?

We feel that the professional reports (CAMHS, ed psych's, salt, school) either directly support or are compatible with our view that he needs special school setting, and were given the impression by lea officer, that if the special school we wanted were not over numbers, that LEA would have been prepared to name it.

This is building up to asking, do you think we need to commission our own independent reports, and how difficult would it be to argue your own case at tribunal without legal representation? We would have to get into debt to afford outside help but would consider doing so if necessary. If anyone here has experience of going to tribunal over content of statement and school named in part 4, did you go it alone or pay for lawyers etc? Does anyone know of experienced SEN lawyers who are prepared to do pro bono work and what their criteria are?

(We have been in touch with IPSEA and SOSSEN earlier on in the process, but both organisations now closed for Christmas holidays)


cansu Sun 19-Dec-10 14:17:24

I did it myself with a bit of help from IPSEA. I did get some independent reports but I was asking for an independent special school so it was going to be much more expensive for LEA than their own special school. I had an independent ed psych report which cost about a thousand pounds, which I think was worth it. I think there is every chance that the LEA might back down if they think you are serious about sendist.You may well find that the once you have put your appeal in, the panel meets and responds favourably. I was in a similar position in that getting legal representation would have put me into debt. I'm really glad that I didn't do this. I think if you can get IPSEA or one of the other charitable organisations on board then you can do it yourself. I am not a mega confident person but I do know what my dcs need better than anyone else. I known others who have used legal representation and have spent thousands only to be unsuccessful. Good luck

pinkorkid Sun 19-Dec-10 14:31:35

Thank you - that's really good to hear that you were able to represent your dc yourself successfully. I hope we do resolve the school placement before it gets to Send tribunal as I don't want him to have to wait several more months without a school place.

yomellamoHelly Sun 19-Dec-10 15:52:45

They didn't take any account of our parents contribution or comments on the draft statement either.

Would say you probably need an independent ed psych to get the school you want. If it's then backed up by everyone else it should be straight forward from then on.

Are you happy with the provision (PT, OT, SALT/1:1)?

We got expert witnesses and a lawyer. But their therapists and ed psych wrote a load of nonsense that I totally disagreed with. Our parents contribution and comments on the draft also conflicted completely. Also case worker and PP kept telling half the story, not explaining what the picture really was/what that really meant and contradicting each other.

Couldn't ignore my gut feeling that I couldn't get past all that on my own.

It is a daunting process, so good luck whatever you decide.

pinkorkid Sun 19-Dec-10 17:27:27

Thanks for your feedback, yomellamo.

We're in the odd position of being happy with what the lea's ed psych and other reports recommend, just not convinced that the statement actually reflects their recommendations. I think our main worry is whether we will get the school placement we think our son needs as only suitable school is technically over numbers.

I think I will at least need to get independent advice on whether tribunals will interpret the reports as we do.

StarlightWonderStarlightBright Sun 19-Dec-10 18:20:29

Budget wise - Independent EP first, plus relevant professinals and parent advociate/legal representative last.

Try to get Indpendent EP who has experience of tribunals as they will help you out loads.

And do try to get as much help from one of the charities if you can.


pinkorkid Sun 19-Dec-10 19:43:27

Thank you, Star. Will have to wait until after holidays to get help from ipsea/sossen. If they feel advice from lea's ep is not clear-cut in our favour, we will look at getting an independent ep. (Will probably be back on here asking for recommendations)

hollyapple Sun 19-Dec-10 22:52:52

We got into debt to cover legal fees and private reports and don't regret it. It was a huge commitment but DD was failed terribly by her school and I could see things heading for disaster if she didn't get appropriate provision.

We got exactly the school we asked for, an independent special school and travel package, with all therapies in-house. From a financial point of view, it makes sense even though we're still in debt now - the amount we spent is a sixth of the cost of her annual fees. Plus I would likely have pulled DD out for home ed if she'd allocated the LA's choice, this way I can pay back the debt now I'm able to work.

I'm well educated, with a science degree and confident and articulate, yet I know I wouldn't have been able to manage the tribunal on my own. I know IPSEA and SOS SEN can help, but to an extent you're at the mercy of them being able to do so, and they have a busy caseload. I read a lot of the stories on SN MN and I know my LA didn't mess me about as much as they could have, because they knew I'd be running everything past my solicitor.

Having said that, it sounds like you have a more straightforward case than I had (we had a lot of conflicting information in our reports) and are fighting for an LA school, so the LA might agree to your request even before tribunal. I'd say you definitely need an independent EP report though.

pinkorkid Mon 20-Dec-10 10:37:23

Thank you for your advice, hollyapple. It's really helpful to hear other people's experiences and especially your point about likely influence on LEA's attitude if they know you have a solicitor checking up on them.

Glad to hear you had a good outcome for your dd.

tryingtokeepintune Mon 20-Dec-10 11:05:43

Was told private Ed Psych report most important and having just received ours, I understand why. It is 15 pages long with test results, observations and recommendations as opposed to 2 page LA EP stream of consciouness report.

I am right now appealing to SEND and will probably get legal representation later or support from one of the charities. I say this as someone who has legal qualifications (but not in SEN) and I also know that on the day itself, I will need someone calmer and more clear headed and not on an emotional roller-coaster.

pinkorkid Tue 21-Dec-10 09:08:20

Hi tryingto, thank you for your advice. I think we have been unususally fortunate in that we feel the lea's ep did seem to understand our dc and we feel produced a useful report on his needs - our problem is more that the lea are naming a mainstream school regardless. I think you are right about needing someone objective with you on the day - I can be calm and logical on paper (usually grin), but not sure I'll manage that speaking on the day.

Good luck with your appeal.

gaia Tue 21-Dec-10 16:44:01

We were also happy with what the professionals said, the LEA was the sticking point, and we were successful at tribunal without legal representation. We did get phone advice from IPSEA though. They can be hard to get through to but I think have a number to ring if you are in a tribunal situation.

pinkorkid Tue 21-Dec-10 17:04:44

Thank you gaia, that's good to hear as your situation sounds v. similar to ours. We'll try again with ipsea when they reopen in Jan.

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