by Douglas Silas, Specialist SEN Solicitor
It is always so hard to believe at this time of year that we are already halfway through the academic year - we now have more time behind us than in front of us!
In this SEN Update, you will find sections entitled:
As I always say, I know how busy everyone is, so please feel free to read just the sections that are of interest to you, or read everything; the choice is always yours.
Don’t forget, to ensure that you never miss out on one, you can get my SEN updates personally by completing your email details below, or by following me on one of the Social Media platforms that I use, at the top of this page.
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TRYING TO HELP PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES
If you have read my SEN Updates over the years, you know that I genuinely try to help people as much as I can. I also try to help people help themselves as well with free information, such as that on our constantly evolving website at www.SpecialEducationNeeds.co.uk.
But I know that we are now also at the start of the appeal season for school transfers this year. So, this year, I have decided to resurrect my previous seven-day email course, which is now called: ‘How to Win a SEN Tribunal Appeal’.
As you may already know, I launched the course a few weeks ago and, as usual with my SEN Updates, it was sent out at 8.45am on a Friday morning. I set it up so that I would be notified when somebody signed up and I thought that a few people who needed it would probably sign up to it in the first week or so.
But I was then astonished to find out that by 8.50am I had received five notifications of people signing up and that by 8.55am, over 10 people had signed up. During the course of that Friday and the ensuing weekend, over 100 people had signed up and since that time, a few hundred people have signed up.
I have also been getting emails from people recently out of the blue, thanking us for writing the course and making it available for free. I was even amused by one email that I received from someone, a few days into the course, checking that there was no charge for the advice that we were giving away for free!
In case you think you may benefit from it or need it, I have dedicated a page on our website for ‘‘How to Win a SEN Tribunal Appeal’ where you can sign up for it, but you can also sign up for it at the bottom of every page on our website.
Can I encourage you to sign up if you think that you may need to appeal now or in the future and to also forward this information/link onto people if you think they may benefit from it, or need it.
I hope that this helps.
BUT I KNOW ITS GETTING HARDER FOR PEOPLE…
After the reaction to my SEN appeal email course, I was also contacted by a number of parents who told me that they needed to appeal, wanted my help, but could not afford for me to do everything for them.
They have asked me if there is any way I can help them still by writing their appeal for them to lodge and then letting them represent themselves through the appeal process.
This need has struck a chord with me so, from today, we are going to also be offering a ‘Fixed Fee’ Service for parents to help draft their appeal (or their further evidence, if they have already lodged an appeal), to draft a ‘Working Document’ for them (for an appeal against the contents of an Education, Health and Care Plan [EHCP]), or to help prepare them for representing themselves at a Tribunal hearing.
(N.B. in all of these cases, I still need to have a 1st meeting with someone to see if they have a case and advise them generally, which I can do via videoconference, to save people from travelling).
You will find more information on our Menu of Services page.
Again, I hope that this helps.
FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS
As you may also know (especially if you were there yourself) the annual SEN Law Conference that I stage with IPSEA and Matrix, went ahead very successfully this year a few days ago. There were some great presentations about many SEN and Disability issues from a number of very experienced speakers, with differing perspectives.
I am delighted to report that we had over 260 people attending, but I also need to stress that there were about 40 who could not get a place this year and were on the waiting list.
In case you could not make it this year, in my next SEN Update I am going to try to relay some of the information that was shared.
However, for now, in terms of forthcoming SEN events, I am going to also remind you of some of the same SEN events that I did in my last Update, which I think might be worth going to and which are:
SOME PEOPLE JUST DON’T GET IT!
As a physically disabled man using a wheelchair, I am always astonished by how some people just don’t get the fact that there are some things that I cannot do that they can do.
Over the years I have got used to the fact that people who meet me for the first time (even if they hear me speak out loud and should realise that I can actually think and talk for myself) sometimes patronise me.
On occasion, they cannot help themselves and try to speak to an able-bodied person beside me to ask them things about me which I can answer myself, if they just ask me directly. Funnily enough, I actually feel sorry for them, as they seem to be the one who have difficulties!
This was again brought home to me at the SEN Law Conference, when I was waiting by the lift with my wife, Erica, together with one of the venue staff.
The first indication we had was when the staff member turned to Erica and asked her what floor I needed to get to. I did not really think about this, because it seemed like a very normal question to ask someone and I thought that the staff member was just making conversation and trying to be helpful. However, when the lift came and we all got in and Erica and the staff member went to press the relevant buttons, we were both a bit taken aback when this staff member turned to Erica and asked her about me and my needs.
Erica immediately gave me the look, which she gives me when people talk to her, rather than to me and simply replied to the staff member that she should direct her questions to me rather than to her because I could speak for myself.
However, I actually want to end this update with another story from just before the beginning of the SEN Law Conference, which I told at the start of the day when I gave my welcome to everyone. I do apologise if you were there and you heard it in person, but I realise that many of you were not and I think it is a great story that illustrates some of the difficulties that I and other disabled people face sometimes, because some non-disabled people just don’t get it.
When we arrived in the morning, we were quite surprised to find that there was no ramp to allow me access to the venue due to the set of about ten steps from the pavement to the venue’s entrance. This had been agreed beforehand when we booked the venue. However, I realised that it was still quite early in the day and they might not have got it down yet, or there may be another reason.
But there was no ‘call button’ for me to attract someone’s attention inside, which there usually is when I go into a place, to allow me to call someone out to help me. As it happens, funnily enough, although Erica went into the venue to ask someone to come and help me, whilst I was sitting outside in my wheelchair by myself, another passer-by stopped and asked me if I needed him to go in and get someone.
In any event, somebody returned with Erica with a remote control and we found there actually was a lift that had been installed at the side and top of the steps, which had been folded up which (albeit very slowly) was brought down towards the pavement for me. This allowed me to put my wheelchair on it and be lifted up to the top (again, very slowly), from where I then went into the venue for the conference itself.
A few minutes later, Erica came to me and said that, after I had managed to go into the conference room, she had returned to Reception to ask why there was no ‘Call Button’ that I could have pressed for somebody to have come to my assistance, in case I had been by myself.
Unbelievably, the receptionist simply answered Erica by saying: “Oh, that would be no problem, he could just come in and get us!”
You just couldn’t make it up, could you!
With good wishes
P.S. I always find it helpful to find out what people think about my updates, so please take a few seconds to tell me what you think by going to 'Spring (Half) Term 2019-20 'SEN Update – Your Thoughts’.
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