Families in High Court for judicial review against Hackney Council’s SEND cuts

Supporters of families fighting a legal battle against Hackney Council over cuts to special educatio

Supporters of families fighting a legal battle against Hackney Council over cuts to special educational needs funding gather outside the High Court ahead of a hearing. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday October 31, 2018. See PA story COURTS Hackney. Photo credit should read: Sian Harrison/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Families of children with special educational needs and disabilities are fighting a High Court battle against Hackney Council funding cuts.

Sade Biggs.

Sade Biggs. - Credit: Archant

Four children, whose relatives are bringing the case on their behalf, are challenging plans to reduce spending on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at a two-day hearing, which began yesterday.

The case is the second of its kind to reach the High Court in recent weeks, following a similar challenge by five Surrey families who are awaiting the court’s ruling.

The four families argue two policies, including one which will see current spending reduced by more than £300,000 for the next academic year, are unlawful and result in “prejudice” to their children and others in the borough with SEND.

John Roden, grandfather of five-year-old Hope Dixey, who has a rare genetic condition, is unable to walk unaided and communicates by sign language, said she is already being held back because her Education, Health and Care plan (EHC) from the council dates from when she was two years old.

Hope Dixey.

Hope Dixey. - Credit: Archant

Mr Roden, who cares for Hope with her grandmother Hilary, said: “Hope is already not receiving the support and care she needs at present so we feel this is only going to get worse if these cuts go ahead.

“We just want what’s best for Hope.

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“All children regardless of their needs deserve the best education possible and this is not going to happen if these cuts go ahead.

“We feel that throughout all of this the council has just ignored our concerns.

“We didn’t want to take this to court but we feel we have been left without any choice.”

Dana Biggs, 46, whose 16-year-old daughter Sade Biggs has narcolepsy and cataplexy, said: “If these cuts go through, we fear that we will be back to square one.

“We would rather not be in this position but feel that we had to take a stand.

“It seems that more and more councils across the country are seeing SEND budgets as an easy target when it comes to making cost savings.”

Anne-Marie Irwin, specialist public law and human rights lawyer at law firm Irwin Mitchell, who is acting for the families, said: “The families are hugely concerned by the steps taken by this council and feel they do not ensure that each child will receive the support they need.

“These children are among the most vulnerable members of society and it is clear that a review is needed to ensure they get the help they require.

“As we have said all along, we would ask the council to speak to the families and rethink its proposals, which we feel will only do more harm than good.

“We appreciate that local authorities face significant budget challenges but they still have a duty to ensure all decisions comply with the law.”

The council is defending the case and says there is no prejudice to the claimants arising from the policies.

Lawyers for Hackney told the court it has “repeatedly stated” that it recognises it has to make the full SEND provision in each individual child’s plan.

The case is being heard by Justice Supperstone, who is expected to reserve his ruling to a later date.

Reporting by Press Association.