Making Sense of Special Educational Needs

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Expert Witnesses

As part of the EHCP process the child will normally be seen by at least an Educational Psychologist (EP) and sometimes a Speech & Language Therapist (SALT) or Occupational Therapist (OT). There may be others involved as well such as a Paediatrician or a Clinical Psychologist (CP) or Social Worker (SW). These individuals are all qualified professionals and are registered as such by their professional bodies. They are empowered by virtue of their qualification and experience to give an expert view.

However, within the NHS and LA their clinical view can sometimes be set against the commissioning guidelines and resource availability from the individual services. This can create a conflict in the advice that they give.

Of course, an LA/NHS can instruct as many experts from within their own ranks as they want, for no additional cost. That is not an option for the parent.

It is rare for LA/NHS reports to conform to law in that they produce reports that are not specific, detailed and quantified and do not give outcomes which are specific, measurable, achievable realistic and time limited.

For those reasons it is normally necessary to instruct experts who can provide a counter view to that of the LA/NHS.

These individuals are all professionally trained and qualified and have HPC registration. They normally have many years’ experience of working within their specialist field. The difference between them and LA/NHS staffs is that they do not follow LA policy or NHS commissioning guidance.

Many LAs may tell you that they do not pay any attention to independent reports; that may be true. They frequently don’t pay any attention to their own EP/SALT/OT reports either!

However, the Tribunal does pay attention and, generally, finds independent expert reports very helpful. If for no other reason than the report actually gives the Tribunal the information it needs to make a decision.

It must be remembered that the Tribunal is a body of statute and as such carries out its work in accordance with law. It does not take into account a LA’s policy. It does not take into account the emotional pleas by parents – no matter how heartfelt!  It does, and has to by law, take into account parental evidence (ie. independent expert reports).

Depending on the circumstances of the case, and each case is reviewed separately, we may advise that it is necessary to instruct independent experts to review the LA/NHS reports and comment on the findings and produce their own view. We would normally expect parental independent experts make themselves available for a tribunal hearing.

We keep a list of independent experts who can provide reports that address, in full, all the issues that your child faces. They produce reports that are specific, detailed and quantified – reports that will stand up in a Tribunal.  Your independent expert should also be alongside you in a hearing to give their view.

Upon instruction we will provide a list of experts who we have worked with, some for many years, across a range of disciplines who may be able to assist you.

You should be clear that those experts are not there to slavishly follow your view. They are there to give an independent view as to your child’s needs within their particular discipline. You may not like what they say, but that is their view.  Experience over 25 years has shown that they are normally right in what they say.

The expert fees are a matter between you and the expert, and we do not advise on their fees, in the same way that we do not expect the experts to advise you on our fees. You are responsible for the fees paid to the expert.

We are happy to discuss with you the necessary evidence you will need to present your case most effectively, and which experts are best suited to meet the needs of your case.

Please note that we do not have any introduction or arrangement fee with any expert that we recommend – we recommend them because we know they are good at their job. Full stop!