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High Court to rule on challenge over special educational needs funding

Three families are challenging the approach of the Government to providing special educational needs and disabilities (Send) funding.

Nico Heugh Simone, whose family is one of three bringing a High Court challenge over special educational needs and disabilities funding (Irwin Mitchell LLP/PA)
Nico Heugh Simone, whose family is one of three bringing a High Court challenge over special educational needs and disabilities funding (Irwin Mitchell LLP/PA)

By Sian Harrison, PA

The High Court is due to rule on a landmark legal challenge against the Government over special educational needs funding .

Three families are challenging the approach of the Government to providing special educational needs and disabilities (Send) funding.

Their lawyers previously told the court there was a “genuine crisis” in Send funding for children and young people which could “blight their lives forever”.

Mr Justice Lewis will give his judgment on the case in London on Monday.

The legal action has been brought by three children on behalf of other young people who rely on Send funding.

The three, who are acting through their mothers, are 15-year-old Nico Heugh Simone, from Robertsbridge, East Sussex, nine-year-old Dakota Riddell, of Birmingham, and 14-year-old Benedict McFinnigan, from Scarborough.

Jenni Richards QC, for the families, told the court at a hearing in June that there was “clear and incontrovertible evidence” of a “substantial national shortfall” in funding.

Ms Richards argued that former chancellor Philip Hammond acted unlawfully in setting the national budget in October 2018, and former education secretary Damian Hinds did so when making available additional, but “manifestly insufficient”, Send funding in December.

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Former chancellor Philip Hammond was accused of action unlawfully (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

She told Mr Justice Lewis they did not take enough account of the “nature and extent of the crisis” in Send funding when making those decisions.

Ms Richards said Department for Education statistics showed “rising demand” for Send funding, which had “not been matched by anything like a commensurate increase in funding”.

She said the figures showed there were 25,540 young people aged 16-25 in January 2015 with a statement or education, health and care (EHC) plan, which had increased to 84,260 by January last year.

The families are seeking a declaration that the Government’s approach to Send funding is unlawful, which they say will force ministers to consider increasing the amount available.

Government lawyers, opposing the legal action, argued the increase in demand was recognised by the ministers and Mr Hinds had “made it clear” that high needs would be one of his priorities ahead of the 2019 Spending Review.

The case has been supported by campaign network Send Action, which held a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice ahead of the June hearing, as well as charities Mencap and the National Deaf Childrens’ Society (NDCS).

The High Court previously rejected cases brought by families of children with special educational needs against Hackney and Surrey councils.

PA

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