East Sussex County Council has sought permission to appeal a decision requiring it to cover school fee costs for the family of a young autistic boy.


The family initiated legal action against the council to secure funding for a place in a “specialist” school that could meet their son’s special educational needs.


Represented by law firm Simpson Millar, 12-year-old Jake, hailing from East Sussex, is autistic and has a language disorder associated with chromosome deletion. In 2019, he was issued with an Education, Health, and Care plan (EHCP).


Although the EHCP acknowledged Jake’s diagnosis, his family raised concerns that it did not accurately identify his special educational needs (SEN) or identify the special educational provision to meet these needs, according to Simpson Millar.


Following a Tribunal judgment in February 2023, the family successfully obtained an accurate EHCP and an appropriate school placement for Jake.


The family’s solicitor, Sarah Woosey, made a costs application to recover the expenses incurred during the period in which the local authority “unreasonably” contested the case, which was granted.


East Sussex was instructed to pay over £7,000 to Jake’s parents, encompassing a portion of legal fees and a contribution to the school fees already incurred by the family.


It has now come to light that East Sussex has applied for permission to appeal the decision regarding the family’s school fee costs. However, the challenge does not encompass an appeal over the decision to grant the family a portion of the legal costs.


Sara Moult, the boy’s mother, has revealed her intention to fight for the Upper Tier Tribunal to uphold the costs decision and has established a Crowd Justice page.


Sarah Woosey, the head of education law at Simpson Millar, has described this case as: potentially groundbreaking, with the potential to set a precedent for costs should the appeal progress to the Upper Tier Tribunal. The primary objective of this case is to raise awareness of the issue and urge the government to revaluate the authority of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. This would simplify the process for families to reclaim expenses in cases where a local authority is deemed responsible for not designating a particular school or for delaying the allocation of a suitable school placement.


An East Sussex County Council spokesperson stated that they cannot comment specifically on individual cases and stressed that they collaborate with all parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities to identify the best possible provisions for their individual requirements. They stressed that as a local authority, they have a duty to ensure prudent management of public funds, and while they understand that this process can be challenging for families, the council must make decisions on appropriate placements and ensure that available resources for children’s needs are used effectively for all children.


We will keep you updated on any developments.

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