Thursday, 5 February 2015


Preserving the rule of law in England

In the run-up to the new special educational needs legislation much high-minded criticism was leveled at what was called the 'adversarial' nature of relationships between families and local authorities, with would-be progressives allying themselves with public and professional bodies to avoid future confrontation, especially in the courts.

While it is always preferable not to have to deal with lawyers and courts, if it were not for law and the judiciary what protection do mere citizens have against errant services,  and the professionals who live off these services?

The new SEN legislation England is not yet half a year old but it is not too early to families to have begun seeking the protection of the courts. In a recent Judicial Review in the High Court, Mr Justice Mostyn has found –
...that Warwickshire’s Local Offer was deficient as it fell ' a considerable distance short of the statutory requirements'.
In addition, the Judge found that Warwickshire Council were in breach of their legal duty maintain a single register of disabled children, commenting that 'plainly unless this local authority has such a register and knows more or less precisely how many disabled children there are in the county it cannot make a fully informed decision about budgetary allocation or as to the terms of a proposed Local Offer.'
Not all the parents' case was accepted in this instance but their solicitors Irwin Mitchell intend to take this to the Court of Appeal.

Motto of this story

The courts are still there. Use them.

The problem, though, surly runs deeper than this. Readers in the United Kingdom will know what I am alluding to if I write the word 'Rotherham'. The big question that dogs me is whether what has been happening there is qualitatively different from what happens is authorities and other sectors of the public service in the United Kingdom, or just quantitatively so, something that to varying degrees pervades health, education and care, more often than Joe Public is aware of, but just written large.

The problem is not just a matter of specifics (and finance, though very important, is just another specific). Despite a host of wonderful people, an awful lot of hard work on the part of so many, and usually the very best of good intentions, all these I bet to be seen in Rotherham too, so much falls so terribly short and goes so terribly wrong. There is something rotten in the state...

Perish the thought – but look out for lots more talk about 'the culture'. Just maybe our society is going to have to face up to what this means.


Tirraoro, T. (2015) High Court finds Warwickshire Council’s local offer unlawful, Special Needs Jungle, 5 February

1 comment:

  1. "Local authorities (and other agencies) are not always proactively benign, and at times can act quite to the contrary."
    Eg Rotherham? ""
    Not Rotherham alone, nor limited to child abuse? For those of us committed to public service as an ideal, these are hard times.