Ministers advise disability parents to use YouTube over lawyers

Ministers advise disability parents to use YouTube over lawyers

A YouTube video and telephone helpline released by the Ministry of Justice should render legal representation redundant in tribunals to determine the special educational needs of children, say ministers from the MoJ and Department for Education (DfE). The resources were created in response to research commissioned by the DfE, with the operation spearheaded by Justice minister Oliver Heald QC and the minister of state for vulnerable children and families, Edward Timpson.

The report by the DfE discovered that the families of children with special educational requirements spent up to £55,000 on legal expenses when appealing decisions by local authorities on care statements and education health to tribunal.

A joint response to the report from the DfE and MoJ stated that: ‘We want to ensure families and LAs […] attend mediation without additional legal support. Bringing an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal [Special Educational Needs and Disability] can be daunting…’.

Now, to help struggling families in their navigation of the legal process, the tribunal has set up a telephone helpline and has created a video which has been made available on YouTube.

The response is hoping to combat the lack of trust experienced by parents in a tribunal that should not require lawyers, but at which local authorities and schools often have legal representation, as highlighted by the report’s findings.

The average cost of the legal proceedings to a family with representation was £6,300, with the lowest being £280. The report concluded that ‘parents […] who chose to use legal representation [and] paid legal costs […] viewed it as unfair that their taxes were also contributing to the costs incurred by their LA contesting the appeal.’

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