Part 3: KCC Special Education Needs spreading misinformation

They do make one laugh especially when they provide false information, but hey this is the modern age of misinformation and Kent County Council (KCC) want to be in on the act as well.

Let us explain, but before we do, a word to the wise. We have written about Special Education Needs not once, but twice in 2022, setting out the background.

Recently, KCC informed our public face that their legal costs for defending Educational & Health Care Plans (EHCPs) at Special Education Needs & Disability (SEND) Tribunals was £552,520, for the financial year 2021/22. This information came directly from their accounts for 21/22, while open for inspection.

In an FoI response from KCC, to Peter Read of the excellent Kent Advice webpage, they informed him that since 2018, they’d spent £430,000 on legal costs for defending Educational & Health Care Plans (EHCPs) at SEND Tribunals.

So there is a discrepancy of £122,520, between 2021/22 costs and all the legal costs between 2018 & 2022. That’s a lot of misinformation. Put simply that’s a 22% difference between the figures supplied to Peter Read and our public face.

So the legal costs KCC gave to Peter Read of Kent Advice are wrong. They are misinformation. Whether or not it was deliberate and done with intent,  KCC supplied dodgy legal cost figures to Mr Read is for KCC to answer, but we would not bet our house, or yours, that KCC will cough up the real figures, without Peter Read having to submit another FoI.

Moving on, KCC advertised for a Senior SEND Tribunal Officer to join their team, at a starting salary of £33,678 per annum in Sept 2020, presumably to replace the phased out barristers/solicitors, due to costs no doubt. The role included representing KCC at SEND Tribunal hearings.

Contrast this with an advert by Surrey County Council (SCC), for a SEND Tribunal Officer, in Oct 2021. The salary is £40,227, that’s a difference of £6,549 between a KCC SEND Tribunal Officer and a SCC SEND Tribunal Officer. Is it any wonder KCC have a problem attracting staff?  And let’s not forget KCC Job role was for a SENIOR SEND Tribunal Officer and SCCs was simply for a SEND Tribunal Officer. Simply put one can work for SCC with less responsibility, and more pay, than one can for KCC. Who would you work for?

What’s that phrase – If you pay peanuts, you get …

It’s clear from the chart above, since 2018, the number of SEND TrIbunal cases heard is 198. Parents have won 52.5% of the time at Tribunal against KCC, over the last five years. KCC have won 36.5 % of their cases, the other 11% were partly upheld in favour of the parents.

Recently Mark Walker (pictured) Director of SEN  and Disabilities at KCC,  in an interview with a Bureau Local journalists stated  that in 2020/21, 96% of all SEND Tribunals were decided in favour of the family. He used these figures rather than KCCs figures to spin the line the Tribunal is biased in favour of parents. Not only is this a slur on the Tribunals, Mr Walker wanted to give the impressions families always get what they want.

However, when one delves into KCCs SEND Tribunal figures for the same year (2020/21), they paint a very different picture. In Kent 394 appeals were registered,  but only 266 cases were pursued. Just 9% (24) of these reached the Tribunal. Of the cases decided 55% (11) were decided in outright favour of the family.

Sending SEND children to schools designed to help and assist them costs a lot of money. The reason for that is they are highly specialised schools. At the end of 2021/22 KCC had a deficit of £104m, and an overspend of £43.4m on the Special Education Needs & Disabilities budget. One of the highest of any council in the country.

Mr Walker was being disingenuous in the extreme quoting the figures he did, but hey as we said at the beginning, this is the modern age of misinformation, and Kent County Council want to be in on the act as well.

Going to Tribunal can be a daunting experience, even more so when one is unrepresented. We wish the very best to all who walk this path. Many will have the resources to employ professional help such as lawyers and specialists, often those who seek expensive private schools. Others simply seek the best possible arrangements for their children with Special Education Needs or Disabilities, having been offered schools or arrangements they see as wholly unsuitable for the child’s needs. The EHCP system is heavily biased against those who cannot afford to pay.- but if this applies to you, visit the IPSEA website or try one of the charities catering for particular conditions.

The Shepway Vox Team

Being Voxatious is NOT a Crime



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