Parents lose High Court challenge over SEND funding

Judge rules out judicial review because local authority ‘couldn’t know what the impact of cuts might be or consult on them’

Tes Reporter


Families of children with special educational needs have lost a High Court challenge against a local authority over funding.

Five children, whose mothers brought a case on their behalf, challenged Surrey County Council's Schools and Special Educational Needs (SSEN) budget for 2018 to 2019 – which they said reduced spending by £21 million.

They argued the council had cut SSEN provision without consulting families and asked High Court judges to rule the decision "unlawful".

Read: SEND funding crisis 'close to risking school safety'

Read: SEND funding cuts trigger wave of legal action 

However, in a ruling today, Lady Justice Sharp said the budget identified how savings might be made, but no cuts had been decided upon or worked out and therefore there was no duty to consult at that stage.

Sarah Jones, 40, brought the legal action on behalf of her four-year-old son Kyffin Carpenter, who has a neuromuscular disorder and communicates mostly through sign language.

Alicia McColl, 44, challenged the budget on behalf of her 14-year-old son Kian Hollow, who has a range of needs including autistic spectrum disorder.

Both women said they and two other mothers – Debbie Butler and Catriona Ferris – were bringing the case on behalf of families across the UK who were facing difficulties because of cuts to support budgets.

The four women were supported during a hearing in October last year by other parents of children with special educational needs.

They originally challenged potential savings of £21 million set out in the budget, but during the court hearing, lawyers focused their submissions on one area of provision amounting to more than £11.5 million.

Rejecting their claim for judicial review, Lady Justice Sharp said the evidence in the case showed the decision being challenged was not a "cut" to spending or services for children with special needs.

Sitting with Mrs Justice McGowan, she added: "What the council has identified is the potential for future savings.

"In those circumstances, the council could not know what the impact of cuts might be in those areas, or consult on them, because at the time the decision under challenge was taken, no cuts had been decided upon or worked out."

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