Pro Bono Story

Mother secures school place for a disabled child in first education law case for legal advice centre: Joely’s story

Joely's story

Joely* is a child with complex sensory needs and autism. When her local authority allocated her to a school that wouldn’t be able to meet her needs, her parents wanted to appeal the decision, but knew they would need help.

While Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) matters and cases involving disability discrimination in educational settings can be covered by Legal Aid, the provision does not generally extend to representation at a tribunal or court. There are also many well-documented issues around access to and eligibility for Legal Aid.

Joely’s parents turned to Nottingham Law School (NLS) Legal Advice Centre for help and their case became the first (SEND) appeal the Centre undertook.

Supervising Caseworker at the Legal Advice Centre, Callum Scott, said that “we became increasingly aware of a gap in provision of legal services for families who had education law issues. For some families, while they can access publicly funded assistance to prepare an appeal, they have to self-fund, or go without, representation at the hearing itself.”

NLS Legal Advice Centre helped throughout the case, including providing advice and assistance on filing a Notice of Appeal, gathering evidence, liaising with potential witnesses and negotiating with the local authority.

Happily, all the hard work paid off, and Joely was eventually placed in a school which met her complex needs. The NLS Legal Advice Centre also assisted her parents to secure specialist transport to take her to school.

Joely’s parents said: “We couldn’t have done it without their help. When we met with the team, we felt that they were completely on our side and that we could absolutely rely on them to do their utmost to help us. When you’re up against such big odds it makes all the difference knowing you’ve got someone like that supporting you.”

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

NLS Legal Advice Centre sees students at Nottingham Law School work on cases under the supervision of qualified lawyers: