Scarborough family join legal action over Government’s special educational needs funding

Picture: PA
Picture: PA

The family of a North Yorkshire teenager who was unable to attend a mainstream school for two years is joining families from across the country in taking legal action against the Government over its special educational needs (SEND) funding policy.

Campaigners say Government grants are leaving councils across the country without enough money to fulfil their legal obligation of providing education for pupils with a range of disabilities and conditions.

Lawyers from Sheffield-based Irwin Mitchell have launched a judicial review into the legality of how the government provides funding to local authorities.

A full hearing will take place at the High Court in June.

Among those taking part in the action are the family of 14-year-old Benedict McFinnigan, from Scarborough, who has been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and chronic insomnia.

They battled to get an education healthcare assessment from North Yorkshire County Council, which was eventually granted on appeal, but the teen missed out on two years of mainstream schooling and is now attending a pupil referral unit for less than three hours a day.

His mother Kirsty, 40, said: “Sadly the government seems totally oblivious to the national crisis it has created. You only have to see the number of councils across different parts of the country that are all struggling to fund SEND services to see the current situation is not working.

“The next few years are going to be key in determining Ben’s life chances but yet we have to find ourselves in this situation fighting every step of the way for a basic education.

“If families across the country are all facing similar issues it cannot be the fault of councils. This is a problem being created from the very top so it should be sorted from the top.”

Anne-Marie Irwin, specialist public law and human rights lawyer representing the families, said: “The families feel that there have been left with no choice but to bring this action and are pleased that the High Court recognises that SEND funding is an issue which needs to be looked at urgently in detail.”

The Department for Education were approached for comment.