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Hackney defeats High Court challenge to approach on SEN funding and Education and Health Care Plans

A High Court judge has rejected claims that Hackney Council’s policies on Special Educational Needs and Disability, including a reduction in its expenditure on SEND, were unlawful.

Irwin Mitchell, the law firm for the four families that brought the case, said they had lodged an application for permission to appeal and were awaiting a decision.

In R (AD & Ors) v London Borough of Hackney [2019] EWHC 943 (Admin) Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed challenges to Hackney’s use of five bands for funding provision for children in mainstream schools with Education,Health Care (EHC) plans, and the authority’s decision in 2018 to reduce the funding allocated to each of these bands by 5%.

For an analysis of the ruling, see also: Funding reductions and legal challenges - Jonathan Auburn and Peter Lockley of 11KBW, who appeared for Hackney, look at the High Court’s findings on the council's approach to SEN funding and EHCs.

Irwin Michell lawyer Anne-Marie Irwin said: “The families believe that Hackney Council’s approach fails to ensure schools have sufficient funds to meet the actual cost of provision for children with SEND, who are some of the most vulnerable in society.

“While the families are thankful to the court for examining the case they have decided to seek permission to appeal. By doing so they hope that the council will adopt a policy in which funding is allocated according to the specific provision identified for each child, and reverses its cuts to expenditure on SEND, so that children get the vital specialist support that they require.

“It is important to note that the judgment does not prevent other families from being able to challenge cuts to budgets or services as each case is based on its individual facts and merits.”

The families also argued that the format of Hackney’s EHC plans failed to ensure that provision was linked to a child’s needs. Instead, Hackney’s plans now link provision to the ‘outcomes’ sought by the council, they said.

“During the course of proceedings the council agreed that it would draw up a plan which separates out needs, provision and outcomes, if this is requested by a parent or guardian,” Irwin Mitchell said.

The law firm said a separate judicial review challenging how central government funds SEND services will still go ahead in the High Court as planned in June.

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