*CANCELLED - WATERLOO*
23rd February 2017
Due to high winds and parent/volunteers safety in getting to and from the advice centre, we have had to make a decision to cancel the Waterloo advice centre on 23rd February. We know that there are travel distruptions that could get worse in the evening.
We apologise for any inconvenience.
Our next advice centre is Friday 24th February in Kent. For details of this advice centre and others, please see here
All workshops for February and March 2017 are here.
Saturday 25 Feb - 16+ and 18+ Transfer to EHCPs including transition and appeals
Saturday 4 March - Appeals against the contents of an EHC plan – parts to appeal and how
*NEW SOS!SEN SHOP*
--- Worcester Park --
Our new SOS!SEN charity shop at Worcester Park is now open! Please come along and visit us at 90 Central Road, Worcester Park, KT4 8HU (020 3409 3854). Grab a bargain and find out all about SOS!SEN. We would very much appreciate donations of your unwanted treasures and pre-loved clothes.
This is our second charity shop. Our other charity shop, All4Kids is in Hampton Hill.
All proceeds go to SOS!SEN charity.
Click to enlarge poster
0300 302 3731
Monday to Friday mornings - 9.30am - 12.30pm
Monday to Friday afternoons - 2pm - 5pm
Tuesday evenings - 8pm - 10pm
Please note that we are unable to call people back on the helpline. All of our volunteers work from different locations and they do not have access to the answer machine facility to call back. If you are unable to get through to the helpline, then it is best to try again - once a caller finishes talking to our adviser the line will be free again. We also have 8 advice centres where you can visit for face-to-face advice.
LOCAL AUTHORITY LAWYERS -
What do they really think of children with SEN and their families?
A busy weekend on social media has thrown an unwelcome light on the attitudes of a solicitors' firm regularly instructed by local authorities in SENDIST tribunals, Baker Small. However, whilst it is rare to see anything so overt, for many of us the events of the last weekend have merely confirmed what we already knew.
Problems started with an initial Tweet saying:
Great ABA Trib win this week … interesting to see how parents continue to persist with it. Funny thing is parents think they won ;)
That Tweet on its own was bad enough. In effect the firm was poking fun at the parents for being so naïve as to think they had done something that would help their child. It would be inappropriate for any solicitor to post a gloating, triumphalist tweet of this nature; but when it is directed at the family of a vulnerable child, it tips over into the offensively unprofessional. ...
Click to read the full news item:
Local Authority Lawyers - What do they really think of children with SEN and their families?
*All4Kids2 Charity Shop*
We are sad to announce that our charity shop All4Kids 2 in New Malden is closed, their last day was Saturday 18th June. We are hoping to find new premises in the future.
We would like to thank the staff and volunteers who have all worked so hard at All4Kids2, we very much appreciate all they have done. Thank you also to everyone who has been into the shop and supported SOS!SEN by donating or buying.
Please note that we no longer have an evening advice centre in New Malden.
Tea Towels *Available*
"DON'T GET SNAGGED IN THE LA'S NET"
Just the thing you need - one for the wash, one for the wall and one for the LA officer. A useful and cheerful product, and it protects you against many fishy words!
£5 (minimum donation) per tea towel.
1) The 2 ALL 4Kids Shops - Hampton Hill and New Malden
2) SOS!SEN Advice Centres
3) SOS!SEN Workshops
4) Our office at 11a Creek Rd, E. Molesey (Mon - Thurs until 4pm)
5) By post - packs of 5 or more
Help us to help you by raising vital funds for SOS!SEN
OKMT - Otakar Kraus Music Trust
OKMT provides music and voice therapy for children and young people with physical, psychological, learning, behavioural and emotional difficulties.
*BRITISH CITIZEN AWARD*
Bob Parslow - Co-Founder of SOS!SEN
Bob celebrated his 90th Birthday recently, so we thought we'd put the spotlight on him and let everyone know a bit more about how he came to SOS!SEN.
Bob has been honing his teaching skills for a very long time. We learned from his sisters that during his wartime Fleet Air Arm training he would pass his knowledge on to them when home on leave – they were the only children in the street to have been schooled in semaphore and flying techniques! Bob's formal teaching career was spent primarily at Brunel University where he lectured in mathematics and the then emerging subject of Computer Science.
As part of his interest in computer graphics (another area which he pioneered), Bob discovered 3-D blindness and worked hard to help people develop counteract it – notnot only helping students to work visually, but also saving the lives of people parking on the motorway hard shoulder through the Parslow Parking Procedure he devised. This is just one example of Bob's life-long interest in problem-solving techniques.
Bob was a Lib Dem councillor for Richmond-upon-Thames when he got involved in the fight against the closure of Oldfield House BED School. Despite the best efforts of all involved, that fight was lost, but it had drawn Bob in to providing advice for the parents affected by the closure. With Marion Strudwick (his partner of over 20 years) and Martin Dean, Bob set up SOS!SEN and has continued to be a stalwart in the charity. He continues to solve problems and provides advice to volunteers and trustees, as well as the parents and children we support.
When he isn't busy with SOS!SEN, Bob's hobby is saiing.
*Thank You Volunteers*
We wanted to say a big thank you to all of our helpline, advice centre and office volunteers at SOS!SEN. We rely on you all and we are very grateful for the time that you regularly give to help other parents with children with special educational needs.
* NEW Information Sheets *
We have two new Information Sheets available.
Education Health and Care Plans - what to expect in each section.
Negotiating an EHCP - the process to be followed when LA serves a draft plan.
They can be found here: Information Sheets
Did you know ...
The facts about disability discrimination claims in education
The facts about education negligence claims
Unfair and inefficient communication tactics from some LA representatives
We are receiving a heavy number of calls from people who have appealed to the SENDIST and are worried because they are often not receiving information from local authorities and their representatives in a form they can readily download. Some have even missed out on the opportunity to oppose Requests for Changes from LAs because they had no idea that a document had been copied to them! This has severely prejudiced the conduct of their case. Even where a LA has informed them that a document has been sent, there is still a problem because of the complexity of the measures needed to download it.
Some LA lawyers are refusing to send information out to parents on anything but such methods, even though they know that SENDIST itself refuses to accept documents transferred by such systems. These strategies are totally unacceptable, go far beyond password protection, and parents need to beware.
The problem often lies with the use of external websites such as Egress that may be used internally within some LAs, but are extremely cumbersome and complex for many of us to use. The reason for using such methods is pretty obvious and not nice.
So what is to be done?
The matter is being taken up by a number of organisations, but our initial advice is to follow the Tribunal regulation below:
Sending and delivery of documents (a) 13 (3): If a party informs the Tribunal and all other parties that a particular form of communication, other than pre-paid post or delivery by hand, should not be used to provide documents to that party, that form of communication must not be so used.
In other words, inform the Tribunal and the LA that you do not wish to receive a particular form of communication. If the LA continues to try it on, then inform Tribunal with a copy to the LA concerned. Complain most strongly. Generally, of course, straightforward use of emails and PDFs etc. is fine.
NEW! Document Check and Drafting of Documents Service
Due to parental demand, SOS!SEN are pleased to announce their new document check and drafting of documents services for parents/carers. We still believe that it is most important that parents should take full ownership of their appeals but recognise that the option of having a document initially drafted maybe a soloution for those who are too busy to carry out all the work involved. Fees for these services can be found
Please note in very exceptional cases a SOS!SEN volunteer can take over a case for a parent and there is no charge for any work.
This service can only be offered to those who details are registered with us via previous and detailed discussion of their cases with the helpline, advice centres, 1:1 appointments, or our hands on workshops.
Urgent advice for parents going to Tribunal
We are receiving worried calls from parents concerning less that ethically professional tactics being used by some LAs and their tribunal officers or legal representatives. Click to see the details and find out what we advise you to do.
Research into the Special Educational Needs Tribunal
We are now pleased to publish our Report on Parent Experiences of the SEND Tribunal. It makes interesting and, often, worrying reading. Click for the full Report. The Tribunals Service has responded in detail; you can read their letter . We will be undertaking some further research in the future to get parental views on some specific topics.
SOS!SEN Welcomes its new Co-ordinator - Eleanor Wright
We at SOS!SEN are all absolutely thrilled Eleanor is taking up this post. She will be with us full-time from late February.
Eleanor is a solicitor who has been specialising in Education Law for 18 years and has particular experience in cases involving SEN and disability, including social care issues. She has been named for several years in Tier 1 of Education Law solocitors in Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession, and leaves a nationally respected firm Maxwell Gillott (also ranked no.1 in Chambers and Legal 500) where she has been a partner.
Eleanor has long experience of working in legal aid for education and has been involved in many of the leading cases on SEN and disability law. She has been a school governor for over 20 years, has a long involvement with the Dyslexia Association and experience of sitting on and chairing school admissions and exclusion panels. She has been involved in a number of advice centres, workshops and training sessions with SOS!SEN for many years.
"I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed as Marion Strudwick's successor. What the charity has achieved during her time as Co-ordinator is absolutely awe-inspiring. It will be quite a challenge to continue and develop the work, but I really relish the opportunity at a time when there have been major changes in SEN law and when children with SEN and disabilities and their families need more support than ever to secure their legal entitlement at a time of funding cuts. I am really looking forward to beginning work with SOS!SEN, particularly working with the wonderful and committed volunteers, parents, professionals and others already associated with the organisation."
Marion Strudwick retires as SOS!SEN Co-ordinator
At the start of 2015, and after nearly 14 years in the post, Marion Strudwick will stand down as Co-ordinator for SOS!SEN. One of the founders in 2001, Marion has headed as a full-time plus volunteer the education and training side of the charity’s work and carried out the lion’s share of SEN Tribunal representation for parents. Of her work, she says, “I’ve learnt so much!”
SOS!SEN started life in the front room of the home of Bob Parslow and Marion in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames following a decision by the LA to close Oldfield House, a much needed special school for children with behavioural and emotional difficulties. So totally blinkered and undemocratic was the behaviour of the LA, that a group of parents, governors, and professionals decided that although they might not win the battle to retain the school, they could make sure that every parent in Richmond had the chance to get help and advice: “We read up the 1996 Education Act, the Code of Practice, networked a range of professionals for help and advice, and set up a Helpline in 2002”.
Quickly the word spread and SOS!SEN now has over 30 volunteers advising on the Helpline, at the Advice Centres and working closely with many parents on a case by case basis to help empower them to fight for their children’s education rights. SOS!SEN is about to relocate to a much easier office to reach and is seeking to expand further its help to parents. “This has been the most interesting work I have ever done in education and it has been great to work with so many committed and wonderful parents.”
Nonetheless, SEN legislation has changed and there are crucial years ahead to protect children’s rights. SOS!SEN is now a very busy national organisation and it is a good time for change and for a greater legal input to be provided. Marion’s successor has been appointed and will be named in the New Year. WATCH THIS SPACE! Everyone at SOS!SEN is thrilled at the new appointment and know it will take the charity to a higher level of national awareness and yet retain the friendly and individual case approach still to be headed by the volunteers.
Marion will stay on as a volunteer and looks forward to working in any way the new Co-ordinator thinks will be useful to SOS!SEN. “I have loved every minute of the work and have made so many friends amongst my colleague volunteers, parents, and professionals. It is wonderful to find that so many parents are now volunteering to help others and with that caring attitude it is certain that SOS!SEN will go from strength to strength. Thank you to everyone who has helped to bring SOS!SEN to where it is today and to all those who will take it further.”
Everyone at the SOS!SEN team would like to say a huge thank you to Marion for all her hard work and dedication.
"Thank you for always being at the end of the phone to help. Your advice has been invaluable and pivotal in making me realise that as a parent I AM NOT POWERLESS. Thank you!" Parental comment - 2014.