Should the family spend money on a SEND Lawyer?
I am helping a family go through the appeal statementing process. We are collecting new evidence and collating existing. The parents are considering employing a lawyer who has so far effectively dismissed all the new assessments we have gained and wants the family to have new ones from people that he recommends. This will be very expensive and I don't think that the family will be entitled to Legal Aid. I am concerned that they will be spending money unnecessarily but want them to have the best chance they can. My gut feeling is that they don't need him but what if I am wrong? I am not in this to make a fortune. I charge a nominal rate and just want to help families who need it.
Be very wary of people that want to dismiss existing reports out of hand and recommend that everything must be done anew – especially if it is going to cost a fortune and they are only recommending one professional to go to rather than sign posting parents to a few so they can chose.
Get them to explain clearly why they think a new report is necessary in writing and then ask the professional that originally wrote the report to look at the reasoning and comment. Professional assessment - on which a report is based - cannot be repeated too often (usually not more than once in a six month period) and so there is a timing issue. Most parents that come to IPSEA for support through the Tribunal process cannot afford to pay for independent reports. It may well be a case of getting the original professionals instructed by the LA to do them properly – i.e. specify not only the child or young person’s special educational needs but the special educational provision that they individually need to have put in place to support them as a result of those needs.
All professionals – educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists – will be members of a professional body/association. As part of being a member of that body they will have a duty towards the client (i.e. the child) that should always over-ride the fact they are employed by an LA. If they ignore this they run the risk of being struck off as professionals!