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Families officially launch legal challenge over SEN funding policy

Three families have applied to the High Court for permission to bring a legal challenge against the government over how it provides funding to local authorities.

The case is being brought on their behalf by Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law and Human Rights team, who have instructed Jenni Richards QC of 39 Essex Chambers and Stephen Broach and Ciar McAndrew of Monckton Chambers.

The claimant families, who are drawn from North Yorkshire, Birmingham and East Sussex, have formed a group called SEND Action. They believe that current government grants are leaving councils without enough money to fulfil their legal obligation of providing care for pupils with a range of disabilities and conditions.

Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “How local authorities fund special education needs is a major issue nationally and will only become more acute as local authorities continue to feel that they have no option but to further squeeze services in light of continued budget cuts.

“We have heard extremely worrying first-hand accounts from the families we are supporting about the issues and obstacles their children have faced. They believe that the government’s current funding policy is leaving thousands of pupils across the country in limbo and that the government is failing in its legal duty to unequivocally promote the well-being of children.

“While we welcome the government’s recent announcement to increase the SEND funding it provides by £350m over the next two years, some local government estimates state that there could be a national deficit in high needs spending of between £1.2 billion and £1.6 billion by 2021. Therefore this issue still needs addressing urgently.”

The families have raised funds through an online crowdfunding campaign and have been granted legal aid to bring the challenge.