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JUDGE RULES FOSTER CARERS HAVE SAME RIGHTS AS PARENTS

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court ref no: CO/2316/95 ...
court ref no: CO/2316/95

A Hull woman has won a landmark victory in her bid to have the special educational needs of her 8-year-old foster son met out of local authority funds.

Mr Justice Laws set a precedent when he ruled that foster carers have the same right as parents to take legal action over their charge's education.

His decision opens the way for the woman to mount an appeal on her foster son's behalf against Humberside CC's refusal to make a formal 'statement' of how his special needs should be catered for.

The boy - referred to in court only as 'D' - is said to have had such a traumatic childhood that for years he was 'electively mute', refusing to speak hardly a word.

He was placed with his foster parents at the age of 22 months. He was extremely 'timid and withdrawn', spending hours cowering behind chairs. It was over a year before he spoke his first word, the court was told.

When he started primary school in January 1993, he 'refused to engage in any way with any of the other children or adults' and was 'electively mute'.

Although he has made some progress, his foster mother says that the council must now take specific action - and set aside funds - to meet D's special needs.

But the council's view that it was unnecessary to make a formal statement of the boy's special educational needs was upheld by the Special Educational Needs Tribunal in April last year.

Both the council and the tribunal said that D was making slow but steady progress at his current school and his needs could be met out of the school's budget without any allocation of extra funds.

It is that decision which the boy's foster mother is ultimately challenging, but the council claimed that she had no right to fight her case in court as she was not the boy's 'parent' within the meaning of the Education Act.

But Mr Justice Laws said that the foster mother had fed, clothed and looked after D since before his second birthday.

There was nothing to indicate any intention on the part of parliament that foster carers should be excluded from the special educational needs appeals process, he ruled.

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