HPCI Statement on Baker Small

14th June 16

Herts Parent Carer Involvement are dismayed to note the recent disparaging public comments made on Twitter by Baker Small Solicitors. Baker Small works on behalf of Local Authorities, cialis including Hertfordshire, to defend appeals against those families who need to access the Tribunal system in order to secure the Special Educational Provision needed by their child. The comments made show a disdain and disregard for these families who are seeking support for their children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Parents in Hertfordshire, who have encountered Baker Small representing Herts County Council, have made us aware in recent years that this confrontational, aggressive, disrespectful attitude to parents is common place. We have also heard from professionals in Herts who have attended training run by Baker Small and funded by HCC, that the training includes strategies to use at Tribunal to belittle and undermine parents, by making them appear emotional and unreliable as witnesses. In the aftermath of the unprofessional tweets of the weekend, we have been contacted by parents due to face Baker Small at Tribunal in the coming months who are very distressed at the possibility of their children’s needs being so publicly ridiculed by someone representing HCC. Parents are not legal experts and challenging through the courts to get their child’s needs met is a hugely difficult and emotionally draining experience, for parents who are often already at full stretch simply caring for their disabled children.

We have on many occasions as a forum expressed our frustration to HCC officers that HCC use money from Government that is allocated to meet the SEND needs of children in Herts to pay for an advice contract with Baker Small and to engage them on a case by case basis. We have in the past successfully challenged the total amount of additional money being spent on further staff training from Baker Small, and indeed HCC have spent a much smaller amount of money instead on upskilling parents to have a greater understanding of the new system, which we appreciate as a positive step. We welcome the clear leadership show by Cambridgeshire County Council in announcing that they are cutting their ties with Baker Small.

One of the key aims of the Children and Families Act 2014, is to reduce the adversarial nature of the SEND system and one of the ways that it does this is by enshrining in law the requirement for Local Authorities to work in partnership with families to assess and provide for a child’s SEND We strongly believe that by continuing to use Baker Small, who are demonstrably invested in keeping the system adversarial and confrontational, is not in the best interests of Hertfordshire’s children with SEND or it’s wider population.

Herts Parent Carer Involvement are the Parent Carer Forum for Hertfordshire, as recognised by the Department of Education and Hertfordshire County Council. We are an independent parent-led organisation that works to improve services and life chances for children and young people in Herts with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

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