Leading lawyers sign up to Q&A platform to fast-track access to educational support
Support SEND Kids, the charity helping children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) access the right educational support, has today launched the first ever digitised version of the Noddy Guide – the definitive legal guide on Educational Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), co-authored by SEND legal experts David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers and Leon Glenister of Landmark Chambers.
The digitisation of the Noddy Guide means that SEND parents can now consult this industry manual for free via the Support SEND Kids online platform, enabling them to navigate the complex EHCP process more effectively.
In what is believed to be another industry first, Support SEND Kids has also launched a Q&A platform that gives parents free direct access to a panel of experts, including legal SEND tribunal specialists, healthcare professionals and special educational needs coordinators (SENCO). These experts, who are all donating their time and insights pro bono, field questions on EHCPs from families, creating a searchable pool of answers for the benefit of the wider SEND community.
Support SEND Kids has already attracted the support of a number of leading lawyers from the SEND community onto the platform, including Gurvinder Samra from Shoosmiths and Laxmi Patel from Boyes Turner. Representatives from corporate law firms are also backing the project, such as Tamara Box, Managing Partner EME, and Adam Curphy, Innovation Lead at Reed Smith; Kate Habershon, Partner, and Grace Tan, Associate at Morgan Lewis; as well as a team from Shearman & Sterling. At the same time, global legal tech companies including Kira Systems, Bryter, Cognitiv+ and NAIX are also lending their support.
The aim now is to expand the number of lawyers available to field questions on the panel so that even more SEND families can access specialist guidance and find up-to-date answers.
Support SEND Kids was founded in 2020 by three highly experienced lawyers – Janvi Patel, Rachel Amos and Denise Nurse – to create an online community that helps shorten the EHCP application journey for SEND families. Despite being envisaged as a ‘self-serve’ process, EHCP applications are extremely complicated, and complex cases often entail a prolonged and expensive tribunal. As a result, just 1 in 5 SEND children access the regular in-school support they need, which in turn has a negative effect on their future education and employment prospects.
Janvi Patel, co-founder of Support SEND Kids said, “With reduced government support due to the pandemic, the need for EHCPs has become even more urgent for SEND families, yet the current opaque and overly bureaucratic system is preventing many SEND children from getting the support they are legally entitled to. We are extremely grateful for the backing that so many legal experts have already given to our cause by sharing their insights and time so generously. We hope their commitment inspires other lawyers to come forward so that more SEND families can be spared this gruelling process.”
Rachel Amos, co-founder of Support SEND Kids said, “When it comes to EHCPs, many families don’t know what their entitlements are, where to start or even what questions to ask. Sadly, the upshot is that many SEND children lose their educational entitlements and miss out on vital years of schooling. With the support of the legal community and other SEND professionals, we hope that our searchable and easy to access online hub can finally allow SEND families to self-serve and be in control.”
David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers, said, “Working with Support SEND Kids, we have created a unique and much-needed digital resource that allows SEND families to find the sections of the Noddy Guide that are most pertinent to their case quickly and efficiently. This is a fantastic achievement that will transform the lives of SEND children and their families, and it’s been an honour to have been involved in this process.”
Leon Glenister of Landmark Chambers, said: “We continue to produce the Noddy Guide as a free resource to bring greater transparency and ease for all of those who use SEN Law. The guide was initially produced for Tribunal Judges, and many years on, we are aware it is used by parents and local authorities alike. We are very happy that the new digitised version of the Noddy Guide will mean it reaches an even wider audience.”
During the course of 2022, Support SEND Kids plans to extend its user offering and functionality by developing an AI-powered searchable national database of EHCPs, and creating a digital workflow, which will inform SEND families of where they are in the EHCP process as well as issuing reminders on immediate next steps. Although some example EHCPs are already on the platform courtesy of the SEND community, once this ground-breaking database has been completed, this will help parents navigate the system more easily and in doing so, ensure their children have access to the education support that they are entitled to.
Any lawyers or SEND professionals interested in joining the Support SEND Kids Q&A forum can sign up here or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations to Support SEND Kids can be made via CrowdJustice here or Just Giving here.
Charity number: 1195895