Funding restored for independent specialist residential college

Michael* is 21 years old. He has severe disabilities as a result of negligent medical treatment at birth. Michael spent all of his time in education supported by a Statement of Special Educational Needs and, later, a Learning Difficulty Assessment. Michael has always attended a specialist school and college.

Michael’s special educational needs and disabilities are;

“…a range of complicated difficulties…complex speech and language communication difficulties with associated moderate learning difficulties…chronic tic disorder, Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, feature of an obsessive compulsive disorder matched with learning difficulties…visual difficulties...difficulties with his fine and gross motor skills and sensory processing difficulties…severe working memory difficulties and…auditory memory difficulties”.

Michael’s parents support him in all decisions because of his significant special educational needs and disabilities. Michael also has a financial deputy, appointed by the Court of Protection.

At 18 his local authority placed Michael in an independent specialist residential college. This was to help Michael develop independent living skills, develop his ability to engage with the community and to gain qualifications that he was interested in.

After turning 20, the local authority began the process of converting Michael’s Learning Difficulty Assessment to an Education Health and Care Plan. During that process, and without prior consultation, the local authority informed Michael’s parents that it would cease funding his placement at the independent specialist residential college.

Michael’s parents were gravely concerned and sought our assistance with the preparation of his Education, Health and Care Plan.

We made contact with the local authority. We highlighted that a decision about placement could not be taken before the local authority had assessed Michael’s needs, or sought his, or his parents’, views.

The local authority retracted the comment and prepared a draft Education, Health and Care Plan. The only advice that the local authority sought was from an independent expert that Michael’s parents had decided to commission.

The local authority accepted all of the independent expert’s advice about Michael’s needs. However, the local authority did not accept any of the advice about the specialist provision, or residential placement, that Michael needed. This was despite the local authority having no other advice to rely on.

The local authority eventually issued a final Education, Health and Care Plan several weeks late. It named a maintained mainstream college with no residential provision. The college could not help Michael complete the courses and qualifications that he had started at the independent residential college.

We helped Michael’s parents start an appeal with the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. The appeal was about the special educational provision in the Education, Health and Care Plan and the placement named.

We secured specialist advice about Michael’s mental capacity to ensure that his parents could appeal on his behalf. This was following our leading precedent case of Hillingdon v WW.

Shortly before the final hearing, the local authority offered to settle the appeal and agreed to restore funding so that Michael could stay at the independent specialist residential college. This was a huge relief to his family as it meant that Michael did not lose any time at the college. Fees for the independent specialist residential college were around £80,000 a year.

Michael’s father said:

"Boyes Turner, dealt with our case very professionally. Laxmi Patel and the team worked on our behalf and conducted the case with the necessary speed and skill to get the case resolved in our favour. Excellent!!"

I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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