Southend mum takes on council to win Education Health Care Plan for autistic son

A mother who battled to get an education plan for her autistic son has won a tribunal against Southend Council.

Julia Caro was forced to represent herself against a council barrister, but has won an appeal after Southend Council turned down expert advice that her young son needed an Education Health Care Plan.

While Ms Caro was unable to afford up to £10,000 for her own legal representation, she did pay someone to collate relevant documents and reports on her son’s condition. This won the day with the tribunal panel.

Ms Caro said: “According to the Special Needs Jungle, Southend is the third worst authority in the UK with its level of support for special educational needs children.

“This has taken a year to overturn.

“We won but they put me through hell against an experienced local authority barrister.

“They don’t have a budget for it.

“They turn practically everyone down.

“So many children are in a terrible state in this town.”

Ms Caro, who has asked that her son is not named, added: “It is a pyrrhic victory because it took a year to get it to tribunal and so my son and our family suffered this past year alone and were callously denied the “extensive” support and advice recommended by experts that we needed out of what we consider to have been pure spite.”

Jess Cain who trawled through reams of paperwork in order to present the salient points of Ms Caro’s appeal, said: “This is a case that should never have cost the local authority a penny.”

Laurie Burton, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “We cannot comment on individual cases, but we always do our best to work with young people and their families to resolve disputes without the need for a tribunal hearing, and this works in many cases.

“When it doesn’t, and agreement cannot be reached, then the matter is determined by the First Tier Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter