Legal Geek chats with Janvi Patel, co-founder of the charity Support SEND Kids. We were fortunate enough to have another co-founder, Denise Nurse, speak at last year’s Legal Geek Conference in London. Thanks to everyone who made it! Need the lowdown? Meet Janvi and hear about the initiative here!
Alongside her work in this new initiative, Janvi is also an advisory board member of Equality Now and Children of War Foundation and a founding board member of the legal campaign #FreePeriods.
Q. For anyone who missed Denise’s talk at our conference this year, what is Support SEND Kids all about?
A. The issue is quite specific. We have several friends and colleagues with children who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). And we’ve seen through their journeys just how incredibly painful the process is to get legal help to secure Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). EHCPs are the official statements that parents need to obtain in order to get additional in-school support for any SEND children. What this means is that many SEND children have lost a certain amount of time in education because they have not been able to get the additional educational support that they are legally entitled to. For most children, this would be a big deal; but for SEND children, losing out on precious time in school is huge.
One part of the problem is that the information to help parents/guardians is scattered across the internet on hard-to-navigate, unfamiliar websites. Therefore, Support SEND Kids was born. We’re trying to bring all the resources into one place. So, if you have a question, such as ‘what’s involved in an appeal?’, you can find the link to a video, and other documents, explaining the appeal process and what’s required.
Q. What exactly is the problem in the legal process?
A. There’s no money in the system, which means there are few lawyers in the system; and for the lawyers that are, they don’t have much resource or data to support them. If you compare this to a lawyer in the corporate world, you’d have precedent systems, workflows, process management and so on. I know of many in this field who’ve had to find caselaw via social media. There’s also no formal structure, and every local authority does things differently – you’re fighting every step of the way, whether that’s you as the lawyer trying to support a client or the parent trying to fight for their child. There’s no transparency and no accountability.
I genuinely do not believe that anyone wakes up thinking ‘How am I going to deny a child?’; the law itself is not perfect, but it is not awful, but the implementation of the law and the process itself is just not set up to effectively manage the system and the caseload. And according to one authority I spoke with, there’s a 10% increase in parents asking for assessments every year, but budget doesn’t go up at the same rate; and there are so many operational inefficiencies built into in the system.
Q. Sounds like there’s a lot of work to be done! How can others in the legal sector help fix the problem?
A. It’s great to have so many SEND lawyers involved on the platform and who have been brilliant at answering questions. Our plan is to get more SEND lawyers and advisors on board and to run Q&A events so that we can get more content filtering through to parents via our website. We want to grow and nurture the information that we have available.
Q. What’s next on Support SEND Kids’ to-do list?
A. Next, we’d like to do an interactive workflow. We’re pleased to be working with Bryter, who’ve kindly offered to put a project team together. We’re also looking into EHCPs that we can feed into the platform – with the plan being, over the next few years, that we’ll be able to create a proper database. Off that, we’ll be able to build a precedent system and we are excited to be working with Kira systems on that project, which in turn will allow us to create templates to improve the overall process.
Please get in touch with Janvi and the team today at [email protected]