Haining v Warrington

Context image.IPSEA are very pleased to have been able to support the Haining family in taking their case to the Court of Appeal against Warrington Borough Council.

The decision issued today was unanimous across three very senior judges lead by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson. It is extremely clear and gives unequivocal direction in an area of the law that has been increasingly misapplied by Local Authorities (LA’s) faced with shrinking budgets.

This decision has a wider implication for all children, young people and their families and is a key case that will have a positive effect for them over many years to come.

It clarifies that under Education Act 1996 s.9;

• Where a parent or young person requests a placement in a school or educational institution but the LA want them to attend somewhere different

• If both placements are suitable – able to meet the child or young person’s needs and make the special educational provision they require as specified in the statement or in the future the EHC plan

• the LA must compare the total costs of both placements to the public purse. This is not only education expenditure that the LA incurs but any public expenditure saved. This will include social care, health, benefits, transport and any other costs that are included in the placement i.e. if they have a schools nurse it will off-set health costs; if they are providing residential care it will off-set social care costs; if parents receive reduced levels of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) it will off-set benefit costs.

• If the comparative cost of the parents or young person’s choice of placement is the same – or even marginally more than that the school or institution the LA want – then it must be named in a statement or EHC plan in the future. A child or young person will then be able to attend.

This section of the law, Education Act 1996 s.9, will not be affected by the proposed changes to SEN law under the Children & Families Act 2014 which is due to be implemented in September 2014.

The Haining family would not have been able to bring this action without IPSEA’s support. The potential costs if they had lost were prohibitive. IPSEA agreed to underwrite those costs and we were supported by NASS (National Association of Special Schools) andNDCS (National Deaf Children’s Society) in doing this. These were the only other groups that came forward to help us support this case.

The support of David Wolfe QC, Matrix chambers and Eleanor Wright, MG Law was vital. Both provided the expertise that ensured the Court of Appeal fully understood the issues involved in this point of law.

IPSEA’s Chief Executive, Jane McConnell, says: “Our biggest hope now is that families like the Hainings no longer have to “battle” with their Local Authority on such issues. We also hope Warrington Local Authority will place the Haining’s son into the school that they originally requested”.

You can download the full judgment here.

1. IPSEA is a national charity providing free legally based advice and support for families who have a child with Special Educational Needs and/ or a disability. We are the largest single provider of support and advice for parents appealing decisions made concerning their child’s Special Educational Needs. For more
information on our work please see our website: www.ipsea.org.uk

2. Jane McConnell is IPSEA’s Chief Executive. She is a barrister by training and is the parent of a child who happens to have complex special needs. Jane was an expert adviser to Brian Lamb throughout the Lamb inquiry into parental confidence in the SEN system.

3. For comment or explanation on any of the above please contact Jane McConnell, IPSEA Chief Executive, on 01799 582030.

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