A family from North Yorkshire is preparing to launch a legal battle at the highest level amid fears over an impending “crisis” when it comes to education for vulnerable young people.
As revealed by The Yorkshire Post earlier this year, children and young people across the region with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are facing a raft of changes, from transport to teaching resource as authorities face difficult decisions over funding. Now, amid concerns over the ability of local authorities to meet their legal obligations, a crowdfunding campaign is being launched to investigate a legal challenge to central Government.
The family of a boy from Scarborough, refused access to an education healthcare assessment, say his future and others is at risk.
“The money comes from the top with regards to the Government so we want to take our fight for change to the top,” said Kirsty McFinnigan, whose 14-year-old son Benedict hasn’t been to mainstream schooling for two years, attending a pupil referral unit for less than three hours a day. “We are trying to do the best for Benedict but we are not the experts. He deserves to be receiving the best education available like all other children.”
Benedict has been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and chronic insomnia, but North Yorkshire County Council refused the assessment arguing he does not meet its criteria for having special educational needs.
The authority, which says it faces challenging times due to “unprecedented and increasing” demand, has long lobbied Government for fairer funding.
“Supporting children and young people with special SEND is one of the most important jobs that we do,” said County Coun Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education. “But the cost pressures are very grave due to chronic Government high needs underfunding from the Department of Education.
“We are a responsible council that always tries to live within our budget but the Government has dealt us a poor hand that is not good enough for the children and young people of North Yorkshire.”
The McFinnigan family, along with another from East Sussex, have launched a crowdfunding campaign with group SEND Family Action to investigate a legal challenge, calling on Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to increase funding to local authorities.
Lawyer Anne-Marie Irwin from Irwin Mitchell, representing the families, said: “Through our work in helping families of children with special educational needs we have seen the increasing strain local authorities are under because of budget cuts.
“The issue of councils being able to fund specialist services is a growing problem with concern that an increasing number of local authorities are failing to meet their statutory responsibilities to disabled children.”
Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our ambition for children with SEND is exactly the same for every other child – to achieve well in school and college, find employment and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives. But we recognise there are pressures on high needs budgets, due to increasing costs.
“Core schools funding is increasing to £43.5bn by 2020 – 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000. Included in that total, the national high needs budget for children and young people with more complex SEND is £6bn this year – the highest on record.”
To donate to the appeal visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/disabled-children-vs-secretary/