Education or Social Care Need?
The battle between whether or not a child/young person’s need is an education or social care need is key. It directly impacts on what provisions and what school placement they obtain. It’s particularly significant when making an appeal for a residential placement. A waking day curriculum, as the phrase suggests, means that a child needs to be educated across all of of their waking hours.
The Facts of the Case
The case in question was an appeal for a placement at a residential school to be named in the case of a child with complex needs. The Local Authority had refused to name the residential placement in the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), on the basis that there was a nearer suitable day school placement available and that extra support could be obtained from the Council’s social services department.
The Local Authority argued that to name the parents’ preference would be an inefficient use of resources, as the day school and social services package combined was a significantly cheaper option.
I argued that the day placement wasn’t suitable and that due to the nature of the child’s educational needs, they required a Waking Day Curriculum and not social care support.
What Did the First-Tier SEND Tribunal Consider?
The Tribunal had to consider whether or not the child’s needs were educational or social care needs, and whether a Waking Day Curriculum was required. The case turned on this and was determined on the basis of ‘suitability’.
The Tribunal agreed that the parents’ preference of placement was suitable and the Local Authority’s was not as it couldn’t provide a Waking Day Curriculum which they determined was required. They therefore ordered that the child should attend an independent special school, for 52 weeks a year.
Given that the annual cost of the placement was a large six figure sum, the case was very hard-fought by the Local Authority.
Some appeals for a residential placement aren’t determined on suitability as the First-Tier SEND Tribunal might be convinced that the parents’ and Local Authority’s preference of placements might both be suitable. If this happens, the Tribunal will then consider costs for the placement and whether or not naming the parents’ preference would be an inefficient use of resources.
What’s taken into account in determining whether a placement is an ‘inefficient use of resources’?
If the Tribunal is of the view that both the parents and the Local Authority’s placement can meet needs, it looks at the cost of each. Importantly, this must also consider other relevant costs to the public purse such as home to school transport, therapies and social care.
Due to how expensive residential school placements are, it’s often the case then when you first consider the costs, that it would be hard to imagine that the parents’ preference of placement wouldn’t be an inefficient use of resources.
However, as Education Solicitors we often find the social care package provided by the Local Authority isn’t sufficient. Also having expertise in social care law, we’re often able to get this increased.