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at what point is it best to get lawyers involved? re statement

(22 Posts)
timetoask Wed 03-Aug-11 07:51:38

Hi all,
A short summary: we live abroad, ds (6.5 yrs) has sever receptive and expressive language delay, severe fine and gross motor skill issues, severe attention difficulties, behavior issues, sensory issues, extremely delayed academically.

We tried mainstream for 2 years with a full-time one-to-one. Fantastic school, fantastic kids, great one-to-one. It didn't work, school have said they can no longer support his needs which are too complex for mainstream. We agree, and we do not want mainstream any longer.

We want a special school for DS, one that can support his multiple complex needs. We know our son and are convinced that mainstream is not right for him.

We have no choice but to move back to the UK, we will be starting the statement process in a couple of weeks. We don't want to waste any more time with mainstream. The statement process takes so long, which is real shame.

Is it worth getting a lawer involved in the process early on? Or wait and see what happens with the statement? My main concern is that they will choose to place him in a mainstream school, and I really don't want to waste any more time for ds, also, I believe tribunal is very expensive and we won't have the funds.

Thanks and sorry for long essay!

Claw3 Wed 03-Aug-11 08:01:02

If you are on a low income, you can get free legal representation, this help also extends to paying for independent expert assessments and reports.

SEN SOS also lend parents the money for expert witnesses to attend Tribunal.

IPSEA and SEN SOS also offer free advice regarding Statement process regardless of financial circumstances.

catherinea1971 Wed 03-Aug-11 08:04:22

Hi, I wouldn't be waiting for 2 weeks, request a stat assessment now if you can. Do you know where abouts you will be living when you get back? Does he have any other diagnosis?
I personally wouldn't be looking at laywers yet, a lot will depend on the area you are going to move to and what the LEA is like there. smile

timetoask Wed 03-Aug-11 08:27:24

Hi Claw and Catherine, thanks for the replies.
Claw, I have had to resign from my job DH will have to commute (europe) every weekend. I cannot afford to move back with no income at all, so we have decided that he should keep his job here and commute (at least until one of us finds a job in the uk). So I don't think I will be legible for low income support.

Catherine, we found a place to rent but it only becomes available in a couple of weeks, we have been in contact with LEA and they have said they will only start formal process once we have officially moved in. We have had private assessments done already, have given them all the information, including reports from current school explaining clearly why they had to exclude him with examples of the various behavior issues they have had to deal with.

I have no idea what the LEA is like, I am concerned about the length of time the statement takes and having my poor ds in mainstream during that time suffering again. Is there any way of speeding up the process?

Claw3 Wed 03-Aug-11 08:33:04

IPSEA and SEN SOS offer free advice on the legal duties of the LA with regard to statements. They are very good and free and perhaps you could use these intially, then if you have to go to Tribunal then pay for a Lawyer to represent you?

timetoask Wed 03-Aug-11 08:35:20

Thanks Claw. I will call them to ask for advice. But what I was hoping is to find out if there is anything I can now in order to avoid Tribunal.
I think we have a strong case, we have tried mainstream for two years with more support than he would ever get in a state school in the UK.

thanks again

catherinea1971 Wed 03-Aug-11 09:42:37

Before you leave, make sure you have ALL documentation from the school and all medical records and reports with you. If they are not in english I would advise that you have them independently translated and notorised.
Do call the helplines, they are very helpful and should have a good idea what the LEA is like in the area you are going to move to.
Also do a search on the LEA's name on here see if there is any info.
Good luck.smile

timetoask Wed 03-Aug-11 10:17:39

Catherine, I just did a search on the LEA's name, nothing came up! Except for lots of posts in other sections of MN saying what a horrible area it is!!! Oh dear.
We went to visit, it looks like a nice leafy area with lots of walks. Must admit did not visit the centre because not interested in shopping,etc....

I have not seen many people mention their LEA on here, which is understandable...

Feeling very worried about this process now.

catherinea1971 Wed 03-Aug-11 11:11:39

Try not to worry, just try and be pro-active, get everything you need together, get on to the helplines and seek their advice, get the letter off requesting stat assessment off asap. Is there anyone in the area you are moving to that you know and could use their address? Goggle he LEA's special educational needs policies. If you have found other mn users in the same area then maybe send them a personal message for some advice.
Also find out the number for the local health visitors, give them a call and explain your circumstances, they may be able to offer some help.
You are also going to need to get a gp and your ds to see a pead in uk when you get back, this again varies from area to area.
You need to get as much info as you can in writing about the problems your ds has, the more info you have the better.smile

ArthurPewty Wed 03-Aug-11 11:49:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ArthurPewty Wed 03-Aug-11 11:49:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

catherinea1971 Wed 03-Aug-11 11:57:53

Also see if there is a local parent partnership and get some advice from them, but bear in mind they are often attached to the LEAsad

TheTimeTravellersWife Wed 03-Aug-11 12:16:15

Parent Partnership can be good but all too often are too close to the LA. Some close during the school holidays. I would concentrate on getting all your papers and documents in order, translated formally if necessary and then apply in September.

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 03-Aug-11 12:31:05

I found that getting a lawyer involved, if only just to let the LA know not to f* with you, worked well very early on. Just a letter on a legal letterhead, or mentioning by email that you are taking legal advice but would prefer very much not to go down that route but to keep things simple and amicable.... It just means they know they can't fob you off early doors. I used a less expensive (but nevertheless very very good) advocate called Fiona Slomovic, who google will find for you v quickly. I never went to tribunal, got all that I wanted, and just paid her for some advice on buzz words to use, and a couple of judiciously timed letters to LA. Admittedly though, much depends on which LA you are aiming for - some are a lot easier than others! I think there is a pyramid of people as far as LA is concerned, and if you don't hint at legal early on, you are put in the large base of the pyramid marked "parents we can fob off with the cheapest provision going, regardless of what the hell is wrong with the kid". Good luck.

For what it's worth, I found IPSEA v good but my feeling with SOS;SEN was that they were too keen to get through the tribunal door, when negotiation might actually have avoided that. I just found their attitude too combative, too "us and them". Of course it is us and them, but you don't need to play it that way every time.

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 03-Aug-11 12:41:25

I think actually if mainstream has already failed, and you can enclose a couple of reports from school or someone to say that, you will have a strong case. You are effectively saying that, were they to dump him in mainstream, his education would "most certainly be disruptive to the efficient education of the other children" as , eg, he would be noisy, move around to much, take too much of teacher's time (add in whatever is relevant here, make it sound like he'd be a nightmare in class). These are legal buzzwords to say he shouldn't go to mainstream. You can also say that it would not be "appropriate for his particular special educational needs" Enclose as much reportage as you can, write a nice, friendly but firm letter using these phrases and have a plan in mind for what SS you want - you might therefore be able to avoid legal costs, while signalling to them with your language that you know the legal game. That is how I started out. I got lawyers in later on.

TheTimeTravellersWife Wed 03-Aug-11 13:21:24

LA took us all the way to Tribunal, despite early legal involvment. We won, but of course it cost us money. The evidence was clear and unequivocal regarding the support and interventions that DD needed, but it made no difference to the LA.
BTW, if anyone has any good "buzz words" that have worked, I would love to know what they are for next time and I know that there will be a next time, which will be after the LA try to strip away DD's provision at the next Annual Review.angry

timetoask Thu 04-Aug-11 09:04:06

Leonie: thanks for the advice. I will start the process towards the end of august then.

TheTimeTravellerWife: So sorry to hear that you had to go to tribunal despite having clear evidence. Surely this should be about the child getting the best possible help! Not about funding the bank accounts of lawers. I have already put together documentation, have all my assesstments ready, asked for the current school to provide us with a letter explaining why ds is excluded (which they did), his one-to-one also wrote a letter, have asked the current SALT for a report of what she has been doing and how she sees him, have a report from a neuropsychologist about his attention issues. The only person I have not been able to get hold of is his OT, she is on maternity leave. Also have a recent assessment from an EP (english). I called the charity yesterday, and they told me that the LEA is in no legal obligation to read any of the documents we provide!!!!

SickOfSocalledExperts: Brilliant advice thanks. I am not the pushy type unfortunately. And I have no experience of legal issues at all. However, for my DS I am prepared to turn into a different woman if necessary. I hope they agree to place him in a special school, but if they don't and I going to tribunal without a doubt. By the way, all those buzz words you mention are all true in our case..

I am going to start saving for the tribunal (just in case!). Can I be really cheeky and ask more or less how much the process costs?

sickofsocalledexperts Thu 04-Aug-11 09:11:02

I know that Fiona is a lot cheaper than solicitors- I can't remember exactly but I think it was somewhere between £500 and £1000 to get to tribunal with her. Solicitors can be 15,000. That charity is right that there is no obligation for the LA to read your documents, but I think they are giving you an overly pessimistic picture. But that does lead me to another thing that I've learnt over the years in my career and in autism world: people are lazy, and don't like to read much, so the covering letter is all. What you need to do is sum up your case in nice plain English, with those legal buzz words, in a covering letter of no more than 2 sides of A4. Then refer in the letter to all the enclosures and what they prove ("As you will see from report x, DS was unable to cope in mainstream for the following 3 reasons, y, z and w"). 9 times out of 10, they won't read Report x itself, but you've made the point needed and they will see they are bang to rights. HTH. I can send you some of my stuff privately if you want to PM me. I have made arguments for pretty much every permutation of SN provision over the years , or at least that's how it feels!

timetoask Thu 04-Aug-11 09:19:34

15,000!! a bit shocked. I hope it doesn't get to that.

Thanks for your advice, it is very true... I have so much paperwork, I doubt they will read it all. Will summarise everything in a couple of sheets.

Thanks for your offer of examples, I am sure they will be extremely useful. I will find out how the PM works. Thanks again.

Agnesdipesto Thu 04-Aug-11 15:24:57

timetoask
Can you get anything in writing from where you are to say your child would be being transferred to special school
Sometimes the LA can maintain the previous type of placement while you go through assessment. If you could get something which would say your child will have been transferring into special school, there is a chance the new LA may keep to that.
If you moved from one LA to another with a statement they would usually have to keep the child in the same type of placement

see SEN Code of Practice 7.31, 7.32, 8.114, 8.115

4sure Fri 05-Aug-11 23:45:03

LEA's are not bound by law to have to accept private assessments and what they medically state neither does the Judge/Chair at Tribunal. Disgusting biased legal state of affairs. The Tribunal/special educational statement laws contradict themselves throughout. If you take the time to read them you will realise this sadly for yourself. A suggestion that I would make to you is that you find yourself a GP asap, a good one. GP's can make a referral to what would be your local clinic who assess children who come under: special needs. I suggest this only because LEA's are more inclined and legally more bound to take note of council/NHS run clinic's and what their assessments declare about the special educational/medical needs of a child. I mention this in case the LEA catergorically 'refuse' to accept your private assessments. Inregards to the school that your child had been attending it would more than help if each teacher that your child has had explained in clear detail the difficulties your child had whilst sitting in class, break times, the journey to and from school, bullying if any, social intergration, visual problems, sensory issues,not coping with large classes, sounds, noises, phsyical movement problems and so forth...
Inregards to a lawyer; whether or not, in the end you need the help legally of a specific lawyer it is usually wise to get in touch with one anyway just so that they become aware of you within the first instance. Lawyers, good ones, who deal with special educational needs Tribunals do not neccesarily jump on the bandwagon, so as to speak, immediately to push you towards Tribunal. They are more inclined to want to hear you tell them about your child's case first and then will make a decision as to whether or not you have a case at that point to apply for Tribunal, they might advice you first to do something other and then get back to them. IPSEA the charity can give advice free and they are based in Richmond. They can also supply a barrister in some cases for Tribunal for free. I mention the Barrister because the LEA always have a Barrister that represent their case at Tribunal and most parents who go to Tribunal do not have the same representation ie Barrister because legal aid will not pay for parents to have a Barrister represent them on the day of the Tribunal, yet another bias legally against parents defending their childs special educational needs. I'd best finish here,

Lougle Sat 06-Aug-11 15:30:25

With regards to the delaying of your application, I wouldn't delay at all. The SEN Code of Practice (the documents LAs must adhere to when processing Statutory Assessment Applications) allows for delays to the process due to the Summer Holidays. Therefore, instead of taking 6 weeks for the first stage, they can delay, and take 10 weeks for the first stage because of the break.

My worry would be that if you wait until September, they will have all the children to deal with who have come to School without adequate provision, with teachers screaming at the LA for support. They will also have parents with existing statements who have realised that the statement they have isn't adequate, etc.

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