Anna Robertson’s family feared funding for her specialist education would be withdrawn
Waltham Forest Council has blamed a “procedural error” for an attempt to cancel funding for a young woman with autism’s specialist college placement.
Anna Robertson is from Walthamstow, but has lived and studied at St Piers Specialist College in Surrey for 38 weeks every year since 2015.
The 21-year-old suffers from autism and epilepsy and also has special educational needs, which mean she has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) drawn up by the local authority.
St Piers was selected as a suitable college for Anna as it is able to provide educational and medical support, as well as specialist help building independence skills.
However, after completing a two-year placement, the college informed her parents the council was planning to withdraw funding for the care programme and place her in a local college.
Anna’s mother, Mary, was “dismayed” at the news and feared her daughter’s development could be set back if she moved to a centre where her needs could not be catered for.
But, the family’s lawyer, Gregg Burrough, an education law solicitor at Simpson Millar, believed the council had not acted lawfully if it had contacted the college before speaking to Anna’s parents.
The solicitor contacted Waltham Forest Council, which has since backtracked on the move, branding it an “error” which was “quickly recognised”.
Mr Burrough said: “If a local authority plans to make any changes to a young person’s EHCP, they absolutely must notify the parents.
“This should be followed by a review of the plan, where the parents and the individual’s views, feelings and wishes on the matter are heard.
“Neither of these things happened in Anna’s case which is directly against the law.”
“Getting specialist placements can be tough and there wasn’t a single expert who agreed that Anna shouldn’t complete her course at St Piers.
“Yet still, the local authority placed the future of a young, vulnerable person with special educational needs and disability in great jeopardy.”
The council has apologised to the family for any distress caused and said a plan had been put into place for Anna to continue her stay at St Piers.
Cllr Grace Williams, the cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Waltham Forest Council successfully supports more than 1,500 children and young people with disabilities.
“In the case of Anna Robertson’s review, there was unfortunately a procedural error.
“The problem was quickly recognised and, having apologised to Anna’s family for the stress this caused them, we have now put a plan in place to ensure she can continue her studies at St Piers College.”