British Dyslexia Association on legal challenges to disability funding cuts

By Helen Boden, CEO

Dyslexia Awareness Week is about the positive side of dyslexia but in the last few days ongoing issues with cuts to SEND funding have come to a head. This has attracted much media attention and has important implications for many of the parents and young people we support. So we would like to take a moment aside from Dyslexia Awareness Week to comment on these legal challenges and their wider implications.

Yesterday, legal action against Surrey County Council began in a bid to halt £21 million being cut from their SEND support budget. The judicial review will hear from lawyers acting for the families of five children with special educational needs who say that the council failed to undertake a consultation with affected families and did not identify the impact that cuts would have on children prior to making the decision.

We know from our work with parents effected by SEND funding cuts effecting dyslexia support that the case currently in the High Court is a reflection of an alarming national picture. Earlier this year, Bristol Council were stopped from removing £5 million from their “highest needs” budget. We would be extremely surprised if these two were the last SEND-funding cases to enter the High Court.

Outside of the legal system, there are many parents fighting, often without support, to secure the funding their children are entitled too.

SEND support is a complex picture and we cannot solely point to funding as the cause of current issues. However, it is demonstrably the case that reduced funding for SEND support is meaning poorer outcomes for young people with dyslexia.

Although no parent should ever have to go to the length of taking legal action against their local authority, we are pleased that these funding challenges are finally having their day in court. We hope that like the recent Bristol Council case, the ongoing case against Surrey County Council will see a clear ruling in favour of SEND pupils. Two successful legal challenges we hope will have a ripple effect through government, both local and national, seeing fairer SEND funding available to all students with dyslexia.

We will continue to work with parents, pupils, teachers, schools and local and national government with the goal of advancing the support for dyslexia in schools. Whilst it has been difficult to see funding take a step backwards in recent years, we hope these cases will mark a turning point in this fight and we can return to improving identification, support and technology available in schools to ensure pupils can focus on the positives dyslexia brings.

If you are reading this and are having issues with your local authority funding dyslexia support, you can get in touch with our national helpline for advice, https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about/national-helpline. We can’t give legal advice but our volunteers will be happy to advise you generally.