Successful Judicial Review against funding cuts by Cornwall Council to education for autistic young people

Friday 13 December 2019

Gráinne Mellon of Garden Court successfully represented the claimants, six young people who were due to start at college in September 2019 and 2020. Following a number of declarations of illegality, full course funding was restored for cohorts commencing 2020-2025. 

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The Claimants in this case were disabled young people who had been expecting to enroll in a specialist three year course at Truro and Penwith College in September 2019. A number of months before the course was due to start, Cornwall Council made a decision to refuse to fund it on a five day a week basis, despite many young people requiring five day a week provision. A number of families, on a representative basis, challenged that decision, arguing that it was unlawful, irrational and in breach of a raft of statutory and public law duties owed by the Local Authority to the young people concerned.

Following a substantive judicial review hearing in Truro in August 2019, HHJ Cotter QC declared that in making the decision to refuse to fund the course, Cornwall Council breached the public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010; breached its duty to consult with the children, young adults and their families affected by the decision and breached its duty to secure the special educational needs provision for a child or young person contained within the Education Health and Care Plan contrary to s. 42 (2) of the Children and Families Act 2014.

The matter was listed for a hearing on remedy, with additional Claimants who were due to commence the course in subsequent years joined as parties.

On 12 December 2019, the Court considered the question of relief and granted an order quashing the decision to refuse to provide funding to enable the College to run the course on a 5 day a week basis as well as a mandatory order requiring the Defendant to provide funding for the course from 2020-2025 for at least a further five year cohort. The order was not opposed by the Defendant.

The effect of this decision is that around six yearly cohorts and approximately 240 disabled children and young adults will have access to the specialist and consistent educational provision they require.  

Gráinne was instructed by Keith Lomax of Watkins Solicitors. Keith Said:

“Having conducted JR cases for about 30 years this one stood out as it didn’t just end upon winning for the claimants and their cohort. We argued that the unlawfulness was not cured, so the JR continued and many more years of disabled young people eventually benefitted. This was very hugely satisfying.”

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