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'We have no faith in them': Couple's battle with council to get support for son, 10, could end in court

PUBLISHED: 07:48 01 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:02 01 February 2019

Joanne Manners with her son Elliott, 10, who has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, at their home in Swanton Abbott. Joanne has been fighting for 18 months to finalise an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) for Elliott. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Joanne Manners with her son Elliott, 10, who has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, at their home in Swanton Abbott. Joanne has been fighting for 18 months to finalise an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) for Elliott. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

A couple who have spent 18 months trying to secure appropriate educational support for their son are taking their case to court.

Joanne and Antony Manners say they have been left with “no faith” in Norfolk County Council following their battle to get an education health and care plan (EHCP) for their son Elliott, 10, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia and dyslexia.

In August 2017 the couple, from Swanton Abbott, applied for an EHCP for Elliott. They received a draft plan seven months later – outside the government’s 20-week target for EHCP completion.

READ MORE: Parents hit out at crisis in Norfolk’s special needs education

“It was a very disappointing plan and didn’t commit to any sort of provision for Elliott,” Mrs Manners said.

“The local authority refused to do the assessments we were asking for and it was at that point that we decided to go to tribunal.”

Joanne Manners with her son Elliott, 10, who has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, at their home in Swanton Abbott. Joanne has been fighting for 18 months to finalise an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) for Elliott. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJoanne Manners with her son Elliott, 10, who has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, at their home in Swanton Abbott. Joanne has been fighting for 18 months to finalise an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) for Elliott. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mrs Manners says two tribunal dates have been cancelled and a third date suggested in January by the parties involved was not acknowledged by the tribunal service.

A point of contention is speech and language therapy for Elliott. After paying for a private assessment the Manners are applying for a budget to cover the cost of private therapy sessions, rather than sessions with a local authority-appointed therapist.

Mrs Manners said the difference in annual cost had been calculated at £130 – compared with the thousands it could cost the council to take the case to tribunal.

“The local authority’s first assessment of his speech and language said there was nothing wrong with him so they’ve done a 180-degree turn on that,” she said.

Joanne Manners with her son Elliott, 10, who has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, at their home in Swanton Abbott. Joanne has been fighting for 18 months to finalise an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) for Elliott. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJoanne Manners with her son Elliott, 10, who has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, at their home in Swanton Abbott. Joanne has been fighting for 18 months to finalise an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) for Elliott. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It is a very stressful situation. You just want the best for your child. Without support Elliot cannot access the curriculum and he has remained behind.

“We are lucky that we are able to afford the private assessments. There are so many people out there who cannot do that and have to accept the provision they get.”

In January Norfolk County Council announced it would spend £1.5m to double the size of its specialist education team to speed up the EHCP process, as part of a wider £120m investment in special needs education.

It came as the local government and social care ombudsman revealed it had upheld 11 cases against Norfolk County Council in relation to its provision for children with special educational needs.

A council spokesman said: “We work closely with families to help meet the needs of their children. All families have the right to go to a tribunal at any point in the assessment or review process, and we will continue to support whatever the outcome.”

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