SEN Law & Professional Responsibility

This is a blog about Evie obviously written by me, her mum.

Before I was Evie’s mummy I was a solicitor, still am albeit not practising at present. I loved that job. I love the law. I loved my colleagues and opponents. I loved to get a good result for my clients. It wasn’t always the case, sometimes we lost and my clients didn’t get what they wanted.

Now not every client is right and often we have to manage our clients’ expectations. That is part of the job.

I gave up working to look after Evie. I couldn’t juggle my parenting responsibilities with the hours that my job deserved. So I’ve taken time away. I work part time in a non-professional role; a job which suits my family’s needs. My family are my priority not my career (I do however miss it lots).

So today I came in from my little job and start reading Facebook. I find this…

Baker Small (BS), what were you thinking?

Please do read it.

It’s shocking.

Sickening.

Beyond belief.

 

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As a solicitor I am ashamed of the person who wrote those tweets. How dare any solicitor belittle a SEN parent.

It doesn’t make me smile. I have such empathy for these parents.

And then this…

 

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“An error of judgement” wow – seriously…in what world would those tweets ever be right?

I remember the days when solicitors couldn’t advertise, couldn’t use social media (there wasn’t any!). But the rules were such that we had a duty and standards to apply. It made us different. Our Solicitors’ Guide to Professional Conduct was a staple for every lawyer. And we had exams on it too…remember those fellow solicitors?

As a solicitor my duty was always first to the court, always. I had a duty to represent myself and my profession in the best way possible, not to bring us into disrepute.

I’m terribly sorry Baker Small but in my opinion that’s exactly what you’ve done. You have insulted these parents AND you have insulted our profession. I felt physically sick when I read what you had tweeted. Every parent fears being belittled and used by professionals. Is it any wonder that parents don’t trust professionals when they read things like this?

I don’t think that solicitors and other professionals have any idea of the effort and energy that SEN parents have to use in everyday life. Not just the day to day things but the appointments we attend, the forms we complete, the administration, the medicine that we administer, the behaviour that we have to put up with (and not from our children, far from it in fact)..the things that we have to remember.

It’s often exhausting. Incredibly rewarding. But exhausting emotionally and physically. It takes true bravery for parents to step up and oppose professionals. True courage to say “Actually no, that’s not right for my child” or “Your interpretation of the law is wrong”.

We all know that money is tight. Budgets are restricted. And as a result not every child is given what they are legally entitled to.

What we don’t need are solicitors who milk the system, making what is already a difficult subject area worse through lack of care.

I have the pleasure of knowing a great many decent lawyers. I know that most lawyers out there would never ever dream of doing this. It saddens me so much that the actions of one human can undermine trust and relationships for so many. I feel as though I need to defend my profession as we aren’t all like this. Genuinely.

It is human nature to gloat. I was taught that there are no winners in family law. As long as people are safe and children protected, that is the only win. That said I would be lying if I hadn’t gloated about winning cases…always in private, always in the office, never ever in public. Because some I did win, when people were proven to be lying or hiding money. That success was part of my job – to get at the truth.
This firm’s tweets has undermined the relationship of parents and professionals, in my opinion. Reprehensible.
So my advice to lawyers dealing with SEN law –

*waving hi* I’m a parent. A SEN parent. I’m a person.

And at the heart of every case you will ever deal with is the child. NEVER lose sight of that.

It’s not about money.

It’s about what is in the child’s best interests. The child always comes first.

You also need to know that what you say will be taken very much to heart by the parents. These parents – your opponents possibly – are their child’s best advocate. They know what their child needs better than anyone. Never ever question that.

Additionally whilst you may love your job, it is nothing in comparison to the love that these parents have for their children. They will travel to the ends of the earth to get them what they need.

I know you want to win. You want to look good.

I know you want a good result. But always consider the emotional side. You have a duty of care to people.

The best result is what the child needs.

And remember you have real influence. Your actions could have a serious impact upon a family.

So take care. Have a heart. You have professional responsibility, never forget that or your integrity.

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9 thoughts on “SEN Law & Professional Responsibility

  1. Great post. In all of this furore, the upset hasn’t been over whether they won or lost the case (we don’t know the finer details, maybe both sides were happy with their ‘win’), it has been about the unprofessional gloating and the sick-to-the-stomach feeling knowing they couldn’t care less about the humans involved. Law is law, we all need that, and we should all stand by it. That’s not in question. Their attitude to it is. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true. I don’t think it’s about the child or the family any more, and I think LAs, by instructing the type of solicitor we are discussing, are equally to blame. There is obviously a demand for types like BS.
    Thanks for posting, and I’m sure not all solicitors are being tarred with the same brush as BS thankfully. All the best, Diane.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. THANK YOU BAKER SMALL!

    I wasn’t shocked. I have whitnessed and experienced this culture for a long time having been through three SEN appeals (and won all three).

    I have read a lot of community SEN forums to know that underhand tactics are played by Local Authorities in the appeal process of which schools are often unwittingly caught up in the middle. Professionals have their hands tied and local authority workers are duty bound.
    Not surprisingly it’s rarely about the child once large chunks of budgets are at stake.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful professionals out there. It would be wrong to tar them all with the same brush.
    We had a wonderful NHS clinical psychologist who after working with school wrote a report stating very matter of factly that with out specialist independent schooling our son wouldn’t become an independent adult. This chap had nothing to lose, he was coming up to retirement and was very passionate about getting it morally right. I always wonder whether it came back on him and I’m enernally grateful that after three failed school placements, he put his job on the line to get our son an appropriate placement.
    Believe me, this is rare. I’m sure many want to, they just can’t.
    I must add that teachers work incredibly hard in a flawed system. Their voices often fall on deaf ears.

    Of course parents can pay thousands and thousands for independent reports that parents are often forced into getting for tribunal evidence. (These reports are very comprehensive and very detailed. Their recommendations are prescriptive and nothing is left open to interpretation – therefor making provision accountable). We had to because we couldn’t rely on one report alone.

    I’m actually relieved it’s been aired because this kind of contempt has existed for a long time and now it’s evident for all to see, as clear as day.

    Until now, we had to battle against this kind of contempt and nasty tactics in silence.
    I’ve probably lost a lot of friends who didn’t like me being so wrapped up in my child’s SEN who have had no idea that if I take my eye off the ball, it could all be gone in a flash. It’s also another job to make sure the provision is in place! It is relentless. One can hardly blame friends from moving on.
    I have too much to lose if I take time off. It’s not optional.

    I also had to give up full time work for a non professional part time roll to attend meetings, appointments, reviews and continual evidencing, documenting and advocating. Something SEN officers and solicitors get paid handsomely for. For all this, ‘parental advice’ is often ignored anyway and we are forced into costly and unnecessary appeals to keep or gain appropriate provision.

    I’m totally moved that all the SEN communities have closed ranks on this.
    This NEEDS to make national news..

    THANK YOU Baker Small for highlighting this widespread culture used in appeal situations to alleviate Local Authorities of expenditure for their most vulnerable.

    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. To Jennifer and to Evie’s mum – brilliant posts,thank you for saying it so well. I too am also a solicitor now non-practising, mainly because my son’s needs were misunderstood/ignored/denied etc over several years until my career dwindled and died, and Jennifer I completely endorse your comments. As it happens the judgment Baker Small say they “won” in one case established some important rights for young people over the age of 18, so I count it as as “lose” for them anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Serin,

      The media has really latched on to the #bakersmallminded case now and escalated it which is great! Power in numbers..\m/ \m/

      Career suicide, who’d have thought Mark Small would have been so silly.
      I don’t believe for one minute that he saw ‘red mist’ after receiving a threatening email, his Twittering went on all night and he was gloating and loving it…until the reality of his smugness hit the following day!

      I do hope this brings changes…..

      Jennifer x

      Like

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