Delegates at the Natspec conference in Birmingham on Wednesday heard about the issues encountered relating to SEND law from Ali Fiddy, the Chief Executive of the national charity IPSEA, which offers free and independent legally-based information, advice and support.
Ali spoke at length about common issues affecting many families and organisations, as well as giving delegates the latest statistics and updates from the SEND Tribunal.
One of the key messages was that “law trumps policy”, and that LAs are acting unlawfully if they introduce blanket policies or guidelines that apply a higher threshold, different test or standard than that set out in the Act.
She reminded the conference that the legal framework, covering not just the 2014 Children and Families Act but also other relevant law such as the Equalities Act 2010, the Mental Capacity Act 2005, case law and statutory guidance. Issues that IPSEA have been working on include the problem of lack of specificity in EHC plans, unlawful transfers or ceasing of plans, and the very real problems of implementation – with 40% of Ofsted/CQC inspections of local areas resulting in the LA being required to produce a Written Statement of Action.
Meanwhile, appeals to the SEND Tribunals are increasing year on year, and in 2016-17, almost 90% of appeals were decided in favour of the parent or young person. “But what really concerns us is that number of cases that go to mediation and don’t reach the tribunal” said Ali, “these statistics don’t seem to be counted, and there’s no way of knowing whether those cases were settled in accordance with the young person’s legal rights”
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