Families vow to continue fight after losing challenge over special needs funding

Families who lost a High Court challenge against the Government over special educational needs funding have pledged to continue their fight for better provision.

Lorraine Heugh, whose 16-year-old son, Nico Heugh Simone (pictured), has autism, anxiety and other related conditions, has faced issues with securing funding to meet his needs from East Sussex County Council.

Ms Heugh, 57, said: “We are understandably disappointed by the ruling.

“We campaigned for months on this issue and still believe that not only our children, but thousands of other children across the country are being failed by the current system.

“Although the ruling may not have found in our favour, we will not stop campaigning for change.

“We urge the Government to ensure the extra money it has promised for Send pupils finds its way to them and we hope that the ongoing reviews come back with firm proposals on how to improve services.

“We are not asking for preferential treatment, we just want children to have the best education they deserve.”

Mary Riddell’s nine-year-old daughter, Dakota Riddell, has a host of conditions including cerebral palsy, global development delay and muscle disorders.

Her lawyers said an educational healthcare plan drawn up in 2016 was not updated for three years, despite changes in the level of support Dakota requires.

Ms Riddell, 35, said: “It was an honour and a pleasure to campaign with parent carers across the UK and fight for what our children deserve.

“Although we welcome the extra funding and the review of Send, I am obviously disappointed in the result.

“I will continue to fight for what I believe is right and what our children deserve.”

She added: “On behalf of the parents, I would also like to thank all those who supported us during the case.

“The messages of support we received meant so much to us.

“The stories we heard of how other children have also been affected by Send funding vindicated our decision (to bring legal action) and now make us determined to continue to push for improvements.”

Jo Campion, deputy director at the National Deaf Children’s Society, which provided evidence in the case, said: “Children with special educational needs and disabilities across the country are struggling to get the support they need and they’ve been consistently let down by a chronically under-funded system.

“This judgment in no way alters the fact that hundreds of thousands of disabled children have seen their support slashed, their specialist teachers cut back and their vital technology withheld.

“I’ve seen first-hand the heartbreak, stress and immense frustration that has become a daily reality for so many families.

“The Government’s pledge of an extra £700 million could make real progress towards alleviating the crisis ravaging the Send system, but, until the cheques are signed and the money arrives on the front line, disabled children across the country will continue to be starved of support every single day.”

Judith Blake, chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils are in danger of being unable to meet their statutory duties for children with special educational needs.

“While we are pleased the Government has announced an additional £700 million for children with special educational needs, without certainty over funding for the future the situation will get worse as the number of children who need support continues to increase.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Family handout / Irwin Mitchell LLP / PA Wire.