November 2022

IPSEA has today published a letter, signed by 34 lawyers, calling on the Government to abandon proposals for reforming the system in England for supporting children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).   

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, lawyers who help families secure the special educational provision and support to which their children are legally entitled have expressed concern about the proposals in the Government’s SEND Review Green Paper. They have urged policy-makers to look at the wealth of evidence on how and why the 2014 SEND reforms haven’t worked as intended, rather than implementing a new set of reforms, which they say will reduce children’s right to provision that meets their individual needs 

Read the letter in full

The letter states:

“The SEND reforms introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014 were – and remain – the right reforms, underpinned by important principles that continue to hold true. There have been extensive analyses by the National Audit Office, Education Select Committee and others of how these reforms have been implemented. There is consensus that implementation has been inadequate, with local authorities routinely failing to fulfil the legal duties to children and young people with SEND set out in the legislation and associated regulations.  

“The SEND system is broken because it lacks local accountability. It is riddled with unlawful decision-making, with no negative consequences for local decision-makers – only for children and young people with SEND.   

“[…] In our view, the key to resolving the SEND crisis lies in finding a way to ensure that local authorities comply with the existing law and fulfil their duties to children and young people, not in implementing a new set of reforms.”  

The signatories, convened by IPSEA, have called on the Government to commit to making the current system work as it should for children and young people with SEND, and to introduce a robust set of consequences for local authorities that break the law.  

Imogen Jolley, Director of Public Law at Simpson Millar Solicitors, said:  

“Our clients would be far better served by a focus on implementing the reforms in the Children and Families Act 2014, rather than the current proposals which focus far too heavily on reducing the spend on adequate provision. There are very few, if any, children who are being “overprovided” for, but a significant majority who are receiving a deficient level of service across the board from education, social care and health.  

“There is still very little joined up thinking between the services, wholly insufficient local specialist educational provision, woeful mental health service provision and the battle to even obtain a basic level of support is real for families. Focus needs to be on compliance with the current law not changes that will inevitably mean a further deterioration in provision and more pressure on families.”  

Polly Sweeney, Partner at Rook Irwin Sweeney, said:  

“The government’s proposal to introduce mandatory mediation is of real concern. It restricts access to justice for parents and young people and creates further, unnecessary delays in being able to access suitable special educational provision and placements. It will introduce unnecessary additional costs for local authorities who have to fund the costs of each mediation, and will limit the ability of the parties to resolve the dispute in a timely manner.”   

Ali Fiddy, Chief Executive at IPSEA, said: 

“The focus of the SEND Review is on changing things without understanding or questioning why the current system isn’t working. It's vital not to underestimate the significance of the Government’s proposals and the extent to which they will entail a complete overhaul of the current SEND legal framework.  

The proposals would, if implemented, make it harder to access special educational provision and support that meets children and young people’s needs, and harder to seek redress when these needs are not met.  

Rather than legislation for a new set of national standards and all the upheaval that system reform would entail, children and young people with SEND need – more than anything – robust accountability measures to ensure that the existing legal framework is upheld for every child in every local authority area.” 


  1. Ali Fiddy, Solicitor & CEO, IPSEA
  2. Eva Akins, Russell-Cooke Solicitors
  3. Yogi Amin, Irwin Mitchell LLP
  4. Lucy Atherton, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  5. Caroline Barrett, Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP
  6. James Betts, Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP
  7. Heather Davidson, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  8. Emma Davies, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  9. Alice de Coverley, 3PB Barristers
  10. Raj Desai, Matrix Chambers
  11. Ed Duff, HCB Solicitors
  12. Adam Friel, Geldards LLP
  13. Beth Holbrook, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  14. Sarah Inchley, Russell-Cooke Solicitors
  15. Anne-Marie Irwin, Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP
  16. Angela Jackman KC, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
  17. Sue James, Legal Action Group
  18. Imogen Jolley, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  19. Gurvinder Kaur, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
  20. Rukhsana Koser, Langley Wellington LLP
  21. Keith Lomax, Watkins Solicitors
  22. Hayley Mason, SEN Legal
  23. Karen May, Bindmans LLP
  24. James Pantling-Skeet, Boyes Turner LLP
  25. Laxmi Patel, Boyes Turner LLP
  26. Ollie Persey, Garden Court Chambers
  27. Alex Rook, Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP
  28. Dan Rosenberg, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  29. Esther Salter, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  30. Douglas Silas, Douglas Silas Solicitors
  31. Robbie Stern, Matrix Chambers
  32. Polly Sweeney, Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP
  33. Lenka Wall, Russell-Cooke Solicitors
  34. David Wolfe, Matrix Chambers
  35. Sarah Woosey, Simpson Millar Solicitors
  36. Eleanor Wright, SOS!SEN

For further information, please contact Catriona Moore, Policy Manager, at [email protected].