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Sen tribunal costs

(44 Posts)
manishkmehta Sun 08-Dec-13 18:04:37

Are people willing to say what they spent going to tribunal on advocates, solicitors, barristers,and experts.... WITHOUT naming anyone, and what they won. I appreciate winning aba or an independent school isn't going to be easy.

I heard a horror story where parents spent £25,000 and won next to nothing.... I then spoke to a mum who spent £2,000 on an ep assessment, report and attendance at the hearing and won a £70,000 pa ABA school.

Am I wrong or are some people out there taking parents for a ride? I worry parents might be paying far too much for things that aren't just necessary, or am I wrong?


KeepOnKeepingOn1 Mon 09-Dec-13 09:15:11

I spent around 12K all told (private assessments by SALT, EP, OT and dev paed, school assessment by EP and OT, advocate and EP and SALT expert witnesses for hearing).

5K of it was for the day of the hearing where the LA conceded before any of my experts had opportunity to speak. Refused permission to claim costs.

I won OCC specialist indi school.

I know who is ripping parents off.

manishkmehta Mon 09-Dec-13 18:47:27

Sorry what is occ? Did you fid it was worth the cost?
I really want to find out if parents feel they are getting vale for money or not.
I'm still impressed by the mum who only spent 2k and won 70k aba school.
I don't want to get robbed and would help to hear from more parents.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Mon 09-Dec-13 18:57:23

Sorry meant to be OOC (out of county) blush

My experts (the A team) were absolutely fantastic.

The case should never have gone to hearing. LA flouted the law all the way. Once they had extra SALT and paed confirmation of ASD they knew they were on a hiding to nothing but still put us through the stress and expense.

DS1's well-being and mental health is worth any cost I can pay. I was fighting for him to have a live worth living.

StarlightMcKenzie Mon 09-Dec-13 19:10:06

I can't say what we spent. I have no idea. We sold our house and spent until we got what ds needed. That included running an ABA programme for a year, one failed tribunal, 3 tribunal EP and SALT reports, a legal team for one and an advocate for another, funding a private independent school for 6 months.

You can also factor in buying a and selling a house costs to move, as well as hotel bills next to the school who wouldn't leave the place open long enough for the tribunal date, and rent of another property to live in whilst we were selling our first.

You can also add to that a considerable amount of cost in lost income as I had to give up my career to fight for my ds, and my dh lost a promotion due to poor attendance.

StarlightMcKenzie Mon 09-Dec-13 19:13:04

By the way, what we did, those making money out of us know that we'll do it. That's why they charge so much.

There is a certain well-known pompous barrister who regularly states that he thinks parents SHOULD pay a considerable amount for his (simple SEN law) expertise as people claiming compensation for injury would do it.

I think the difference is as parents of children with SEN there is likely to be more than one tribunal needed in the child's educational lifetime (whether parents go through with it is another matter) because LA's so blatantly disregard the law at every request and turn.

dietcola Mon 09-Dec-13 20:19:39

NC but I probably spent about £25k, though I've never gone back and done all the sums. It's hard to estimate, as Starlight says -I haven't worked since DS was born either so it's hard to estimate the costs of that. We needed two tribunals (with legal help each time), plus a long fight for dx in the first place (eventually done privately).

We got a residential specialist school with transport and the total package is worth over £180k a year. This is for the whole of his secondary schooling so I feel the legal/expert costs were worth it. We needed four expert reports for our tribunal, I really don't think just one EP report would have done it. The value of it is far more than that of course, as it means he now has a future and positive mental health, and it's also meant I can focus on my own needs and life is generally far less stressful now I can work in partnership with his school.

manishkmehta Mon 09-Dec-13 20:37:42

So am I right to conclude that you spent way too much and we're not happy with you solicitor or barrister?

I studied with ipsea recently and took on a case and won. The big solicitor firsm with the pompous barrister say that would have cose cost abut 3k. Isn't it funny that I did it for free.

The more I listen to these solicitors and the one or two bad apple barristers the more I realize that parents like me need to help parents avoid these firms.

I suppose there is no way of naming these firms as we would end up being sued for defamation, right? So how do we help parents avoid these firms?

Whilst I know there are bad apples out there I do love maxwell gillott, john ford, and levenes... Also, with the advent of direct access barristers I send some of my clients to a leading barrister,... But not the pompous one you alluded to...

I hear great things about Fiona and Nigel.... And I myself offer ROCK bottom prices... But are there others advocates out there? Surely as parents we need to help one another?

If you'd rather chat offline

StarlightMcKenzie Mon 09-Dec-13 21:33:58

I needed a solicitor because I needed the headed note paper on the letters that I wrote from my solicitor to the LA.

Fee for receiving
Fee for time reading
Fee for printing off and sending
Fee for receiving reply
Fee for sending reply to me

But if I'd just written the letter myself as a parent I wouldn't have got a response at all from the LA.

manishkmehta Tue 10-Dec-13 01:12:29

wow... if you really believe that then we need to club together as parents and start a new law firm called "Goldstein, Urquhart, Gandhi & Co"

We then need to find lawyers called "Rupert, Tarquin, and Apple" and have a really cool letter head printed and not worry that section 316 and section 316a mean a right to a mainstream education, but that our font and company logo look stunning.

For some reason I thought the key to wining was that by including in your bundle the court of appeal decision "MH v Sendist and Hounslow Council EWCA 770 [2004] ELR 424" you made it clear that the ftt that the court of appeal had ruled that mainstream was your entitlement, or which ever case law was relevant to your case, you were setting the seen for what you wanted.

Secondly, I thought that my including additional case law, making similar points, e.g. - "Bury Metropolitan Borough Council v SU [2010] UKUT 406 (AAC)" and quoting point 64 "I acknowledge that professionals with considerable experience hold the view that A’s interests would be better served by attendance at a special school. Like the First-tier Tribunal, I do not have to decide whether that view is right or not. Parliament has given a strongly entrenched primacy to mainstream education. Whether that approach is the most appropriate one in order to help children such as A would have to be a matter for Parliament."

By submitting these decisions in your bundle you are making it clear to the ftt that they have no right to refuse you a mainstream school and that Parliament had ruled in this matter, i.e. your local authority, or the lower courts could not undo the sovereignty of parliament.

Additionally, I thought that that by including more case law, e.g. - "Harrow Council v AM [2013] UKUT 0157 (AAC)" and pointing out point 27 "In my judgment, the apparent incompatibility between the provision of suitable education and the requirement to name a mainstream school without express regard to the suitability of the school for the child can only be reconciled on the basis that the local education authority is under an absolute obligation to make a school suitable, if there is no suitable school already, whether inside or outside its area, where the child can be found a place, subject only to the qualification in section 316(3)(b). It has to provide for the identified needs. It cannot say that it will educate the child in a mainstream school without providing for them. Nor can it rely on any independent resources issue in this respect. This combines the need to protect the interests of the child with Parliament’s intention, in amending 1996 Act in 2001, to promote inclusion." - you were making it clear that the "absolute obligation to make a school suitable" was the duty of the LEA.

Call me crazy, but as much as being called Oliver, Harry, George, Rupert, or Tarquin would be a great asset to ones legal career, knowing the law, and what the courts had said was more important. Although I see having a fancy header on your letters might make a big difference.

Personally I think the law is the law is the law... and if you provide all the case law in your bundle and then hire a leading barrister for the day you shouldn't have too many problems. I have noticed parents avoiding solicitors and using advocates so as to keep costs down. The trick seems to be to hire the best experts, and include all the relevant case law in your bundle... then with a brilliant barrister for your hearing day you should get a good shot at winning. Although I hope he has/she has a fancy letter head as that could clearly make or break your case smile

FYI – in the old days you couldn’t approach a barrister directly, but all that has changed… see

Question – why wouldn’t parents find out who the best barristers were in the field and cut out the middle man, or use a middle man, i.e. an advocate? Clearly before you pick a barrister speak to parents, but have a look at the rankings, here…

I think parents could cut out a lot of costs for what they want… If an idiot like me can win my first IPSEA case and a solicitors firm would charge £3k for the same outcome clearly something is wrong… maybe I should spend £3k on my letter head?

manishkmehta Tue 10-Dec-13 01:31:35

I spoke to a parent recently and their solcitiors arranged a conference call with the barrister, the solcitors, the EP, S&LT, OT and ABA consultant,... the call lasted one hour and cost the parents approx £900 + VAT - the parent couldn't tell me what value was added, but i completley get eveyone got rich at the parents expense... i wonder what that firms letter head looks like! I have no idea who the firm is, but my general advice to parents is that you don't need a confernence call.

wow... maybe you are right StarlightMcKenzie, maybe i just need a great letter head.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Dec-13 09:06:06

I think that perhaps you are assuming that only the most complex cases go to tribunal and that we poor parents need a barrister/lawyer who knows all the case law and precedents.

Think again. LAs go to tribunal when a blind man and his dog (excuse the non-PC reference) can see that there is no defence. No parent would ever go to court with as weak a case, incompetence and flouting of the law and tribunal deadlines as a lot of LAs will. They do this because tax payers are funding the extra assessments that they 'request' (I was asked to drive DS1 to private SALT assessment which would be video-taped - 2 hours travelling and a 3 hour assessment so that they could fight against him in court) and legal representation so that LAs wriggle out of their responsibilities.

The costs to us (financial, career and the first and foremost the wellbeing of our DC) are real and are not borne by 'the taxpayer'.

LAs assume that parents are stupid and will accept any old rubbish they spout. They know that lawyers are far less likely to accept confidently asserted lies and this is why headed note paper makes such a difference.

Fiona is a force of nature, supremely confident, appears to work 24 hours a day so that she knows the bundle inside and out despite only acting on the day of tribunal and she is the mother of an SEN child in ss.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 10-Dec-13 16:23:37

I think you are also ruling out the fact that some tribunal judges need a solicitor to fear. Or at least a barrister.

Having said that I hit the roof when my solicitors said they had agreed a telephone conference with the judge at the request of the LA, - to establish where I lived because the LA had read on MN that I wasn't always at my home address.

I wrote to the judge (via the solicitor with their in out in out fees) and told him not to be silly. The solicitor agreed with me but fgs should have defended us having to pay something like £3k for nowt in the first place, not just blindly agreed to take that money off us.

manishkmehta Tue 10-Dec-13 17:48:46

I am starting to see that this is not as easy as i had expected. The cases i have done so far have been simple, and thank god good results. I do see that there are are complex cases out there.

I still think having a barrister on the day might be the best thing. I have spoken to a couple of direct access ones and they seem very willing to take on cases on a a direct access basis.

I really wish i had all the answers... Well... i'm off to Wilthshire as an IPSEA rep tonight... leaving now... wish me luck... hopfully i'll be able to do a great impression of david wolfe or clive rawlings.


StarlightMcKenzie Tue 10-Dec-13 17:54:58

Manish, please don't be put off. Your ideas and passion for this make it possible IMO. You just need to research a bit more about people's experiences to hone in on how you could make it work.

People like you are very much needed. If you met me in real life you'd know I'm not the disillusioned misery guts I sometimes seem. I have hope and I have faith and increasingly I have knowledge which like you I try and use to chip away at the uneven path.

manishkmehta Wed 11-Dec-13 22:23:38

StarlightMcKenzie - Im buying dinner.. pick the place and I'll see you there...

i am very disappointed with the system. Without saying anything about the case today i have started to see that parents who can not afford independent experts reports are almost doomed to failure. I can't say that is always going to be the case, but from the cases i have done, the parents with the experts reports have almost always won... and those without the experts reports have almost always lost... happy for you all to correct me on this matter if i am wrong...

Whilst i knew my law today... i felt the panel / judge weren't taking me seriously... perhaps it does need a solicitor or barrister to make a difference. However, the law is the law... surely it should not matter if i speak of L vs Clarke and Somerset County Council (1997) or if a leading barrister should... yet, i got the distinct impression today that what i was saying, even though true, simply didn't matter... WHY?

I suspect i am now seeing why solicitors are making a large amount out of families in this area of law...

Question... is it about

a) evidence, which clearly it is...
b) the law,... which clearly it is...
c) both the above... which clearly it is....

The problem i have with this is that when you get a family who can not afford experts reports... can not afford a solicitor / barrister... then what happens to their child?? Are we becoming like America where those with the deepest pockets always win, and the rest always lose?

Perhaps parents do need £25k for justice... please write me and tell me this is not so... PLEASE.

manishkmehta Wed 11-Dec-13 22:54:06

To KeepOnKeepingOn1.... excellent post...

If LEAs are simply wasting taxpayer’s money by making parents waste theirs then surely the answer must be that all parents appeal… that will eventually lead to LEAs incurring more costs…although I do see that will also incur more costs for more parents…Ahhhhh….

I have now thought about your post endlessly and I see no solution that works… if we act as irrationally as LEAs we drive ourselves bankrupt… LEAs having nothing to lose as it’s not their money, it’s the taxpayers money so they can squander it… also, I suspect it’s classic game theory… if they didn’t make it difficult for parents then all parents would appeal thereby increasing not only the litigation costs to the LEA but also the costs of provision in the event that they lost… hence the need for them to be so spiteful. – I get it… Be horrible to parents and then fewer parents will appeal.

So… I have now come full circle and must ask, can parents do this more cost effectively? If I instruct an EP, S&LT and OT to assess + write a report + attendance… the cost to the parents will be approx. £5k, and a leading barrister approximately £2k for the day,…. Question… is it wise not to use a solicitor give that those costs could easily rack up another £6-£10k???

Can the advocates with the right experts and the right barrister do the job effectively without the need for a solicitor? Question… is this a false economy?

GloriaTheHighlyFavouredLady Wed 11-Dec-13 23:05:25

Manish There is a real issue with consistency from what I understand.

I can share with you one aspect of my lost tribunal where we had a very good advocate representing us.

Our written evidence was strong. Extremely strong.
The LA submitted nothing.

The Judge on advice of his lay people (one an ex LA EP notorious for being anti-parent and definitely anti-ABA which was what we were asking for) ruled that because our evidence was submitted in writing, the LA should be allowed to have the majority of air time to give their verbal (unverified, made up on the spot) evidence.

The judges decision basically was that our appeal was dismissed because no LA or state funded person had recommended ABA.

Of course they hadn't, which was WHY we were at tribunal with our evidence. The LA had also thrown a whole bunch of irrelevant therapy at ds which seemed to justify them making their non-evidenced decision. The judge also ruled that DS was making progress because the EP at the tribunal who had never met him or been to his school, said he was.

Now, I need to ask you. Had we been able to afford a solicitor and barrister would we have won?

I'm absolutely certain we wouldn't have. I am also absolutely certain that given the extremely ridiculous decision we would have given hope for the outcome of an appeal to UT and invited to spend even more money flogging a dead horse.

Given that our child was under the age of 5, our advocate advised that a faster, cheaper and probably more effective path would be to wait the 6 months until annual review and then appeal an amended statement with the evidence of the failure of the LA's provision, and the guarantee of a new panel. I feel that this was the right (though disappointing and frustrating).

The system is corrupt all the way through. Judges don't listen to you if they don't want to. They don't listen to barristers. Firms who have a high success rate have it because they vet their clients and they push them down an off-the-shelf tribunal route to provision that their child may or may not need, using their experts to facilitate that in order to secure their win.

You're not doing that. You're doing your best for a child and their family using the corrupt but only available system. To continue to do so is admirable, particularly when you have days like today.

GloriaTheHighlyFavouredLady Wed 11-Dec-13 23:06:19

And another thing.

You can have upwards of £25k and still not get justice.

GloriaTheHighlyFavouredLady Wed 11-Dec-13 23:06:47

Sorry, - I'm Starlight. And I'll happily have dinner with you.

GloriaTheHighlyFavouredLady Wed 11-Dec-13 23:09:19

In answer to your question. Perhaps a barrister is a good idea if it can be afforded. Less so the solicitor, especially if there is an advocate available.

manishkmehta Thu 12-Dec-13 00:27:07

You are the voice of reason... I thank you, Nigel and Fiona. It's easy to give up but I won't. I must be the change I want to see in this world. I am very sad today as I may have lost but I know in my heart that I gave my case at least 200%. I will never give in and will continue to make my stand.

I am very sad the system fails us from time to time but I am very grateful to all of you before me that made this journey simpler. It is upon your shoulders (ipsea, Wolfe, Rawlings, Cross, Lawson, Fiona, Nigel...) that I feel like a giant.

I suppose to ipsea I am eternally grateful as I see the light. It's an honour to work with such noble people. I only hope and pray more will join their ranks. I wish it were easier but I suppose we have all come a long way since 1996.

In respect of the upper courts I see we don't have to take decisions lying down. If they can be appealed then onwards and upwards we must go.

I'll pm you my number for dinner.

GloriaTheHighlyFavouredLady Thu 12-Dec-13 16:02:10

You did your best. Your only agenda was the child. That's important, and even if the parents have lost they'll keep some faith in humanity, if not the system. When you feel helpless and that the whole world is against you, that's when you give up. They won't give up because someone with integrity took their side.

TheBuskersDog Wed 08-Jan-14 22:49:47

Have just seen this thread whilst having a glance through the SEN threads.
We spent about £1000 on an independent EP assessment and report and he attended the tribunal. We had a representative from IPSEA. We were successful at tribunal and our son got his place at independent residential school, cost around £180,000 a year.

mmm1 Wed 15-Jan-14 20:43:41

I swent approx £600. ( x 3 so £1800.)for private assessments. .one OT .ONE SALT and 1 ed Psych. Could not get legal aid and could not afford solicitor so took council to Tribunal on my own. I asked for NON MAINTAINED Special school so it was not what county wanted so they got barrister and 3 witnessess to go up against me. Well in the end they withdrew 6 days before and my daughter got her place. The school costs 20,000 a year as it has therapy and they take her in taxi also. Obviously i was scared but her case was strong as she had been diagnosed in 2012 as severe SPEECH/LANGUAGE disorder and had gone through primary without any help from SALT at all.
SO my costs were the independent reports which have to be done without question. For her the SALT was very important.

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