Young Person Gets Independent Special School Placement

Jessica Wake
Jessica Wake
Education Law Paralegal

By 31 March, Local Authorities across the country will need to issue decisions on any young person with an EHCP who is 16 or over and intending to move to a different phase of their education.

Our Education team have assisted many families around this time in their lives where there has been disagreement between the family or young person and the Local Authority around where they should be educated. This is what happened to a young person we’ll refer to as H.

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H was 20 years old and due to transfer to post-19 education in September 2021. H has both significant cognitive and physical disabilities impacting upon his ability to learn new skills.

A Phase Transfer Review was held, during which Mrs M, H’s mother, expressed concerns that H had been unable to learn vital independence skills needed for him to progress to adulthood. Mrs M asked the Local Authority to provide H with a 38-week residential place at an independent special school.

Following the Phase Transfer Review, the Local Authority concluded that H’s attendance at Mrs M’s preferred school would be an inefficient use of public expenditure. The Local Authority decided that H did not require a residential setting and his needs could be met through a place at the local further education (FE) college with supported living accommodation.

How Simpson Millar Helped

Mrs M was understandably disappointed and frustrated by this decision and sought support from Simpson Millar to appeal the Local Authority’s decision.

Jessica Wake from our Education team assisted Mrs M in bringing an appeal against the contents of H’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal. This included a challenge against the placement named in the plan.

The Local Authority tried to argue that their package of support would be appropriate for H. But following evidence from an independent Educational Psychologist and advice from H’s previous school, we demonstrated that the Local Authority’s package of support would be unsuitable for H and that his needs would not be properly met.

Additionally, we also uncovered that the package of support suggested by the Local Authority had several issues including the fact that their suggested supported living placement had not actually been built.

We represented the family at a final hearing and the Tribunal decided that H required a single setting where he can develop his independence skills across different environments. As a result, the Tribunal agreed to name Mrs M’s preferred independent special school on a 38-week residential basis.

We were also able to increase the number of hours of direct Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy H would receive whilst he was in school. The Tribunal did not accept that the Local Authority’s proposed package of supported living and attendance at an FE College was suitable and therefore the costs of the independent school did not matter as there was no suitable alternative.

“This was a fantastic outcome for the family. Although the placement proposed for H was undeniably costly, the law does not allow cost to prevent suitable provision being made for a child or young person with an EHCP. The big issue here was that there was no suitable alternative at a lesser cost and therefore the Local Authority had a duty to name and therefore fund the placement in accordance with S39 Children and Families Act 2014.” - Jessica Wake, Education Law Paralegal

The Outcome

Mrs M and H were thrilled with this outcome and H has since settled into his new school and is reported to be progressing and learning new skills, preparing him for adult life when he is ready.

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