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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:24 am 
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Hello, this is a bit different to most of the queries on here (and rather long…). I’m helping my brother to put together an oversubscription appeal for my niece on the grounds of exceptional social circumstances. Having examined the Herts appeal statistics from the last four years, I am aware that extremely few have been successful.

In the FAQ C2 under ‘medical or social reasons’, Etienne indicates that the burden on the appellants is to convincingly demonstrate why ONLY the school under appeal can satisfy documented needs.

In the theoretical case of a wheelchair-bound child appealing for the only local school with access facilities, need is clear. It would be the ONLY school it would be possible to attend and the alternative would be attending no school. When the appeal is based on social and psychological reasons, the need is less black and white. Attendance at another school would not be physically impossible, so it seems to be a case of demonstrating the risk of significant emotional harm, which is a bit more nebulous. Advice requested concerning the case below.

Background:
In February 2009 X was placed on a child protection plan on the grounds of emotional harm and neglect under the care of her mother. The situation continued to deteriorate and by December 2009 was considered sufficiently grave by social services to necessitate an Emergency Protection Act application and the initiation of care proceedings. In order to avoid X being taken into care, my brother sought and was awarded a Residence Order (before this point he did not have parental responsibility in law and X’s extended family were denied access). On the recommendation of the local authority, the court also issued a Prohibited Steps Order, disallowing contact between X and her mother without supervision and prior written consent.

Protection case notes record that X was quiet, disturbed, anxious and withdrawn in this period; was subject to bullying; and had very few friends. Since she has been in my brother’s care we have intensely collaborated with her school to ensure that she is supported as much as possible in her academic and social activities, and she has consequently made outstanding progress. Although the profound distress of the last few years has not been fully resolved, recent reports indicate that she appears happy, motivated and popular. We are extremely anxious to ensure that these tentative improvements take further hold and are not rolled back by her placement in a learning environment that fails to meet her needs. She cannot go to the school that her new-won friends will be attending because of its proximity to her mother’s house, so this will present a further set back to her confidence and sense of stability. She remains vulnerable and her need for support and supervision as she makes the transition to secondary school is considerably higher than average.

My inclination is to let the fact of a protection plan and scheduled emergency intervention speak for the severity of the situation, rather than trawl through the grim soap opera specifics. Will a print out of definitions such as 'emotional harm' and 'neglect' as they're used by social services, along with the threshold criteria that must be satisfied before a court will make an emergency order under the Children Act 1989, provide an adequate sense of the issues involved? Something very brief like this, for instance: http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/Res ... eaflet.pdf I have her case protection notes, but they are highly confidential and I’m uncomfortable with the idea of sending out so many copies. It would perhaps be possible to submit extracts with all but the relevant recommendations and targets blacked out – thoughts? The school we are appealing for best enables fulfillment of these targets, for reasons that will be fully articulated in our submission.

I don’t know what level of knowledge about these issues to assume. I’d like to build a concrete, evidenced case but I also don’t want to swamp the panelists with long documents. Would it be appropriate to provide select examples of respected literature on child abuse? Studies point to the long term negative effects, regardless of whether a child is eventually moved to a loving home, and make particular protective recommendations for deconstructing the impact of trauma and safeguarding emotional development. Outcomes can include serious interpersonal problems, difficulties during adolescence, cognitive impairment, suicidal behaviour, psychiatric disorders etc. A social worker familiar with my niece’s case will be attending the hearing, so perhaps their testimony/advocacy will be enough?

Secondary points:
1. My niece is bright - predicted level 5a/b SATs, reading age of 14 when tested last year etc. Since she has been cared for properly she has made rapid progress. Although non-qualification is not the basis of appeal, it's clear that a highly supportive environment will allow this academic ability to surface rather than fall by the wayside. Her headmaster and learning mentor have written very strong and detailed letters of support confirming the difficulties of the last few years and her outstanding potential.

2. Her mother has previously presented at her primary school and security concerns remain. Independent travel for at least the first year is therefore not going to be possible. My brother is a single parent who has had to take on a second job to cover rent of the new home he moved into to accommodate a child and it will be logistically difficult for him to transport her to a school that is far away from his work or route home. His time is already stretched to the limit and having to drive long distances every day will further impair his ability to spend quality time with her precisely when she'll most need focused attention and reassurance. I understand from what i've read over the last few days that transport considerations do not typically hold much weight, but I wonder if they are worth mentioning in this particular case? The school under appeal is closest to his work. Knowing he was so close would make a difference to her emotional wellbeing.

Any thoughts on any of this appreciated. I have only recently found this site but I have read scores of threads in quick succession. I'd like to join the chorus of sincere thanks for the very helpful and generous efforts of Etienne, Sally-Anne and any other mods/ regular contributors.

A raised glass to all who made it to the end!

Best wishes.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:39 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:26 pm
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Hello, clockstruck13, and welcome!

Quote:
In the FAQ C2 under ‘medical or social reasons’, Etienne indicates that the burden on the appellants is to convincingly demonstrate why ONLY the school under appeal can satisfy documented needs.
Ideally, yes. You quote me correctly, although this is in the context of a 'balancing stage'. I think I probably worded this as I did because - although the very strongest cases tend to be medical/social - a lot of medical/social reasons put forward at appeal can be be somewhat trivial! What I've written sounds in isolation like an absolute test, whereas the test is a relative one - is the social/medical need sufficient to outweigh any prejudice to the school?

Clearly - if you have a tough panel, not inclined to allow many appeals - then the more extreme the medical/social need, the more likely it should be that even a tough panel will accept that it outweighs the prejudice to the school.

Quote:
In the theoretical case of a wheelchair-bound child appealing for the only local school with access facilities, need is clear. It would be the ONLY school it would be possible to attend and the alternative would be attending no school. When the appeal is based on social and psychological reasons, the need is less black and white. Attendance at another school would not be physically impossible, so it seems to be a case of demonstrating the risk of significant emotional harm, which is a bit more nebulous.
I agree. We're usually into the realm of very subjective judgements anyway (what exactly would be the impact of one more child on the other children? - do the reasons for wanting a place outweigh the prejudice to the school?).

Quote:
My inclination is to let the fact of a protection plan and scheduled emergency intervention speak for the severity of the situation, rather than trawl through the grim soap opera specifics. Will a print out of definitions such as 'emotional harm' and 'neglect' as they're used by social services, along with the threshold criteria that must be satisfied before a court will make an emergency order under the Children Act 1989, provide an adequate sense of the issues involved? Something very brief like this, for instance: http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/Res ... eaflet.pdf
Yes - perhaps you could mark or underline the bits you wish to draw to the panel's attention. (A highlighter may not work so well when the papers are duplicated.)

Quote:
I have her case protection notes, but they are highly confidential and I’m uncomfortable with the idea of sending out so many copies. It would perhaps be possible to submit extracts with all but the relevant recommendations and targets blacked out – thoughts?
I think this would be entirely acceptable. A good idea to bring the report to the hearing, to hold it up, and explain "Because of its highly confidential nature, I hope you'll understand our reluctance to submit it in its entirety."

Quote:
I don’t know what level of knowledge about these issues to assume. I’d like to build a concrete, evidenced case but I also don’t want to swamp the panelists with long documents. Would it be appropriate to provide select examples of respected literature on child abuse? Studies point to the long term negative effects, regardless of whether a child is eventually moved to a loving home, and make particular protective recommendations for deconstructing the impact of trauma and safeguarding emotional development. Outcomes can include serious interpersonal problems, difficulties during adolescence, cognitive impairment, suicidal behaviour, psychiatric disorders etc A social worker familiar with my niece’s case will be attending the hearing, so perhaps their testimony/advocacy will be enough?
In my view, best not to swamp the panel. The social worker should suffice.

If too much detail is given, it can sometimes become difficult to see the wood for the trees! My advice is always to get the essentials of the case down to one side of A4 (plus supporting evidence). Then let the panel ask questions, and address those areas that they want to focus on.

Quote:
Her headmaster and learning mentor have written very strong and detailed letters of support confirming the difficulties of the last few years and her outstanding potential.
Good!

Quote:
2. Her mother has previously presented at her primary school and security concerns remain. Independent travel for at least the first year is therefore not going to be possible. My brother is a single parent who has had to take on a second job to cover rent of the new home he moved into to accommodate a child and it will be logistically difficult for him to transport her to a school that is far away from his work or route home. His time is already stretched to the limit and having to drive long distances every day will further impair his ability to spend quality time with her precisely when she'll most need focused attention and reassurance. I understand from what i've read over the last few days that transport considerations do not typically hold much weight, but I wonder if they are worth mentioning in this particular case? The school under appeal is closest to his work. Knowing he was so close would make a difference to her emotional wellbeing.
I do think a brief mention would be very relevant in this case.

Quote:
Any thoughts on any of this appreciated. I have only recently found this site but I have read scores of threads in quick succession. I'd like to join the chorus of sincere thanks for the very helpful and generous efforts of Etienne, Sally-Anne and any other mods/ regular contributors.
Thank you very much indeed for that. :)

Appeals can be unpredictable, and I am obviously in no position to say what the outcome will be - but speaking just from my own experience, I never encountered a case like this that was not considered sufficient to outweigh the prejudice to the school.

Good luck - and please do let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

_________________
Etienne


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:31 am 
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Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:40 pm
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Two points as I work in this field.

Child protection minutes cannot be shared without the chair of the cp conference permission as they will have highly confidential details probably on a number of family members. I do not think a chair would give permission to ever share the report in it's entirety to unknown persons ( admin staff and the lay panel).

Also I would ensure that you also get a written report from the social worker. I think your transport issue is crucial regarding the safety and protection of your relative and this with the other information can be evidenced by a social worker report. Be aware that social workers often have emergencies/ court dates so ensure you get a report as well just in case the social worker can not attend due to unforeseen circumstances.

Good luck. You will have an extremely strong case.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:06 am 
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Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:03 am
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Thank you very much for your helpful replies, Etienne and Joop. Much appreciated.

Joop – so long as reference to anyone else was blacked out, would chair permission still be needed to share only the page containing the targets and recommendations under the categories ‘identity’, ‘emotional & behavioural development’ and ‘education’? Now that she has been removed from the harmful environment my niece is no longer subject to a protection plan, but I’d like the social worker to confirm that overcoming this level of trauma can take years, and that the long term targets in her plan still hold. Her letter may be enough on its own, but I don’t want any of the detail to be lost.

I did think this was a strong case until:
a) I noted the astonishingly low appeal success rate in Herts. Over five years absolutely no appeals have been upheld at some of the schools
b) I started reading this forum! I noted in particular a case in 2008 which unsuccessfully appealed on the grounds of bullying and GP-confirmed severe distress/ panic attacks. Of course the full details of the case were not presented on here, and every appeal is relative to those of other appellants, but I would have considered that a strong case. I don't think it was for one of the wholly selective schools, for which proof of academic ability is the chief concern.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:49 pm 
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It sounds as though you want to share part of the plan rather than the minutes. I think that I would confirm with the social worker what you would like to do as it is a local authority plan and get agreement via the social worker. I am sure this would not be a problem. Is the school you are appealing for in the same local authority as the social worker ? Again you could also get a letter from the current CP designated person in the current school detailing the protection issues for your niece.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2011 8:15 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2007 2:02 pm
Posts: 662
Location: Herts
What a terribly sad, complicated case. I do wish you & your brother well.

The only thought I had (I know zero about child protection etc) is that in Herts you really need to explain why the appealed for school is the only one that will suit your niece. Your argument against the allocated school seems to be that it is too close to X's mother (more than reasonable in the circumstances I think).

Joop has said that the transport issue might be crucial & I see that you have mentioned proximity to your brother's work. I don't know what part of Herts you are in, or what school you are appealing for, but do bear in mind that many of our secondary schools are very close together. So the proximity issue from your brother's work might not hold enough sway, if that makes sense.

For example, in a car, Queens / Bushey Meads & Bushey Academy are only minutes from each other and similarly, Parmiter's, St Michaels & Francis Coombe. This might not be an issue if you are appealing for a more isolated school, but I did wonder if there was there anything else you can think of to beef this section up? Perhaps that your niece would be the only child going there from her primary (fresh start away from people who know her back story) or that the school you want is particularly known to be strong in pastoral care? (not sure how you would find this out though). Or that your niece has a new found confidence in drama / music etc that the appealed for school specialises in?

Hope it works out for your family.


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