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#1 Jolly Roger

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 09:12 AM

The Baker Small website has crashed this morning after they published a statement - including an apology.

If you can't access their website, there are screenshots of the statement here:

Attached File  image.jpeg   269.58KB   3 downloads

Attached File  image.jpeg   258.64KB   1 downloads

There are two things about this that I am interested in: first, Mark Small acknowledges that he was wrong to respond via social media to the abusive messages he has been receiving, and that the adversarial SEN system brings out the worst in both sides; second, (and I have no doubt that this will be buried under the outrage) there is a minority of parents who do not want dialogue, mediation, conflict resolution or to co-operate at all with the professionals in the SEN system or the law. These parents have an agenda, and are not willing to be pleasant to anyone who isn't giving them their unquestioning support. I've said before that too many parent groups are adversarial and silencing anyone who suggests dialogue and co-operation with professionals.

The repercussions will continue; there is now a lot of momentum behind the pressure on LAs to move away from legal adversarial methods and towards co-production of EHCPs and SEN provision in the way we were all promised in the Children and Families Act. Pressure is also being put on LAs to break their ties with Baker Small - as anyone who knows the value of goodwill to a business will know, this is going to hit that company where it hurts the most.

I don't think that this is the tipping point. One firm of solicitors has removed the lid on a huge problem and exposed it to public scrutiny, but in a way that invites everyone to point the finger of blame squarely at them. As I have been known to say every now and then, when someone farts loudly in a lift, everyone else can get away with dropping Silent But Deadlies.

The SEN system is riddled with problems: LAs employ lawyers for a tribunal system that is not intended to need them, placing parents at a massive disadvantage; they employ tactics that are intimidatory and obstructive; schools and services are underfunded.

But there is also another problem that needs to be addressed, and which is mentioned in this apology: there is a subculture in parents' groups which is hostile, unco-operative, and refuses to engage. It justifies this stance with the very childish defence of, "It's not me, it's them! They started it!"

I don't care who started it.

If you refuse to co-operate with the professionals or encourage others to do the same, if you are abusive to people for doing their job, if you spread the claim that the system is "rotten to the core" and there are no good people working in it, then you are part of the problem.

Yes, I know how hard it is. I know what it feels like. That's not an excuse for using your energy to increase the conflict, distrust and bad feelings that already exist.

Here endeth my rant. Feel free to respond.

#2 Mozzy

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 09:29 AM

Agree always two sides to a story and having seen parents (of kids and adults) act as childish as this law firm has I can see (sort of) both sides.

Yes they were wrong in their posts on social media but so are a lot of people! They should have never received the horrid emails they got.

Parents will always fight for their kids and I hold massive respect when they do. As long as they do it in an acceptable fashion.

Also, there is a fine line between needs and wants. Sometimes the love of a parent can cloud this. Their child's needs are not always something they can look at subjectively. Love stops them being able to.

#3 Jolly Roger

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 07:41 PM

I've been asked to post a response to this on behalf of someone who (understandably) wants to remain anonymous.

I'll post my own comments below it.

Where to start, and how not to identify myself?

The mess is not caused by the 2014 amendments, it was here on the old system, and is also in Wales who still use the old legislation. What has happened is that financial pressures have increased and it is cheaper for LA's to use legal support to get the outcome they want, than to lose.

We are reluctant to meet our LA, even in disagreement resolution as they use the information they gain to twist the truth. We have to remind them that what was agreed is the only thing which should come out of those meetings. We have had numerous meetings where what was said and what was recorded is totally different.

The Tribunal system is adversarial and unfriendly. I have been to many tribunals and they have all been different apart from one thing; they are deeply unpleasant.

We have never taken a legal representative, yet the LA uses barristers, and tries to get their own solicitor in as well (unsuccessfully). While we have not succeeded on every point we have been successful on the majority of points.. No appeal has gone against us entirely, and some have been found totally in our favour so I feel we were justified in making those appeals.

Whilst I am angry at what our LA does I cannot extend this to those who are employed to fight their case; they are just doing their job. A lot of money is made around SEN, to the detriment of many children and school budgets. Some are downright bullying, and I will hold that against them, but others simply do their job, and if I were in their position I can envisage me doing the same

What happened to the theory that Tribunals could be attended by parents without additional legal support? Panels are pressured by legal teams employed by LA's, and become afraid of getting it wrong in law, erring on the side of caution rather than face a backlash from the LA legal team.

Something needs to be done about the lack of truth and transparency in case statements written by the LA and in complaint responses. In every situation we find the LA are allowed to lie and cheat and are believed even when evidence shows they are lying. They lie with impunity, and are unaccountable for their actions at almost every level. this isn't just a Tribunal issue, it starts as soon as there are problems with a child in school.


This is an entirely understandable account of something that has happened hundreds of times across the country. The bit that stands out for me is the statement that LAs know that it is cheaper to employ lawyers and underhand tactics than it is to actually deliver SEN provision.

What I disagree with is the statement that the tribunal system is unfair: it isn't. The tribunal knows that parents represent themselves without legal assistance all the time, and is required to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that parents who don't employ advocates are not at a disadvantage when facing LAs with barristers. I've seen it happen, and I've seen the LAs lose when it happens. I've also seen hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of examples of parents taking on LAs without legal assistance and winning. I've spent more than a decade supporting families who have won at tribunal without resorting to legal assistance.

What I like about my anonymous friend's comment is this: they are using the mediation and conflict resolution avenues. Everyone should do that.

What lots of people don't like about my opinion is this: sometimes parents ask for more than is reasonable (although I am not saying that about this parent - I am not involved in their case and am no position to make that judgement.) As one friend once summed it up to me, some parents want their children transported to school in an adapted minibus with Sybil Elgar as their escort, and then taught by Simon Baron-Cohen and Temple Grandin, when actually all they really need is a behaviour management plan and half a day's training for their teacher. Sometimes parents lose their tribunal case because what they are asking for isn't appropriate.

But, of course, if you say that on social media then you'll get an inbox full of obscene abuse - because of the culture that some parent groups have propagated.

#4 maximus prime

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 10:27 PM

Our LA don't employ an outside firm of solicitors they have a team of in house solicitors whose role is to fight against parents at Tribunal. Likewise parents who go to Tribunal or even express their intention to appeal the statement are removed from the LIO who covers their school and assigned to the "LIO for difficult parents"

 

I feel that doing so automatically makes the process adversarial particularly as generally parents have built relationships with the school assigned LIO usually over a good number of years as they tend to cover an area of secondary schools and the associated feeder primaries.

 

So I have a good relationship with Lucy's LIO and feel she has a good grasp of Lucy's needs. It wasn't her decision to refuse to amend Lucy's statement it went to panel who advised that school could apply for extra funding for the extra hours but they wouldn't amend the statement.

 

If  I'd accept the funding being temporary (possibly until next review but reviewed when LA choose in reality) and not documented on the statement I'd keep the LIO who was really helpful in making the application for funding to the panel that will most likely be successful. But because I believe that if Lucy has the additional need for support it should be documented and protected by her statement then I will be removed from the LIO who we've worked with for ten years and will be assigned the LA's "parent fighter" even if  we don't even get as far as Tribunal.

 

I'm not sure that that is the best way to encourage mediation,trust and co operation to be honest and that's completely separate from  my experience with Jack's statement where they completely ignored their statutory duty,lied and misled routinely throughout the process only conceding on the point of Judicial Review where they would have to be accountable. 


Edited by maximus prime , 14 June 2016 - 10:28 PM.


#5 imperfect parent

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Posted 15 June 2016 - 07:00 AM

In my experience the interaction becomes adversarial the moment the parents disagree with the LA, be that when school apply for an assessment or, when parents disagree with a decision.

 

Our LA are sloppy, and deadlines given by them along with actions taken by them are too often wrong, and then defended.  The LA solicitors defend the LA with no regard to truth and legislation; what they do is always right and what parents do is always wrong.

 

The mistrust and miscommunication is then taken into Tribunal.  The Tribunal keeps no record of who has conceded in those cases that are agreed just ahead of hearing, they are recorded as withdrawn even though many are withdrawn due the LA backing down to avoid a hearing.  In effect there is more success for children through using the Tribunal system than is recorded.

 

Like MP we have used the threat of JR, and were successful in having the initial position of the LA changed, but within the week the LA were telling another family that the only provision was the original, inadequate provision they had initially offered us.  It's very much that they will only do the right thing if parents know what it is and how to fight for it.  They have nothing to lose unless they don't back down when challenged, so of course they back down and avoid censure.

 

All of the above is worrying, but so too are the comments posted on social media.  In my opinion any one doing their job should not be bullied in that way.  We need to be considering the root of the problem, not attacking those in the firing line.



#6 Jolly Roger

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Posted 15 June 2016 - 12:04 PM

This is the inevitable consequence. By washing their hands of Baker Small, LAs can now claim that they have nothing to do with their methods.

https://www.theguard...MP=share_btn_fb

#7 Jolly Roger

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Posted 16 June 2016 - 05:55 AM

"As some have already pointed out, the entire SEN framework depends on co-operation between parents, local authorities and education institutions."

https://lawmostly.co...witter-scandal/

#8 apricot

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Posted 22 June 2016 - 07:00 AM

Petition if anyone wants to sign

 

"SEN budgets need to be ring fenced for children's education not LA legal fees."
 

https://petition.par...etitions/132715



#9 imperfect parent

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Posted 22 June 2016 - 06:32 PM

 

 

Last Thursday, a new company, Essential Special Educational Needs Ltd, was registered with Companies House. Its director is listed as Mark Small.

Quote above from Guardian Newspaper. http://www.theguardi...s-special-needs

 I'm not one of the parents who have spoken to the paper, but I have had a very similar experience at the hands of other firms.  






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