Parents an­gered at ‘in­sen­si­tive’ tweets

Coun­cil urged to sever ties over spe­cial needs fund­ing com­ments

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Alexan­der Ballinger alexan­der.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­

AN­GERED parents in Hilling­don have called on their coun­cil to sever ties with a law firm used for spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs and dis­abil­ity (SEND) fund­ing af­ter the solic­i­tors posted ‘in­sen­si­tive’ com­ments on Twit­ter .

The firm Baker Small rep­re­sents Hilling­don Coun­cil in SEND tri­bunals where parents or car­ers appeal against a de­ci­sion by the coun­cil on the child’s fund­ing.

Baker Small tweeted on June 11 boast­ing of a ‘great win’ that sent the parents ‘into a storm’, caus­ing out­rage among many.

The firm later deleted the tweets in ques­tion and apol­o­gised for the com­ments, but has since closed its Twit­ter ac­count.

One Hilling­don mum, who asked not to be named, told the Gazette: “I would ab­so­lutely like to see the coun­cil stop us­ing them af­ter their in­sen­si­tive com­ments.

“The process is very stress­ful at the best of times for parents.

“The prospect of hav­ing to face people with an at­ti­tude such as that which Baker Small has dis­played puts fur­ther stress on parents.

“That money could go an aw­ful long way to sup­port­ing chil­dren with ad­di­tional needs ed­u­ca­tion which, af­ter all, is Hilling­don’s duty.”

The Baker Small tweet read: “Crikey, had a great ‘win’ last week which sent some parents into a storm! It is al­ways a great win when the other side thinks they won!”

Baker Small un­til re­cently rep­re­sented around 20 coun­cils at the tri­bunals, but at least eight coun­cils across the coun­try have al­ready re­port­edly can­celled their con­tracts with the firm since the con­tro­versy.

The deputy leader of Hilling­don Coun­cil, Cllr David Sim­monds, said: “Baker Small has apol­o­gised for their in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments and as­sured us they have taken steps to en­sure it does not hap­pen again.

“Hilling­don Coun­cil will al­ways pur­sue the in­ter­ests of chil­dren and will seek to do this in the most ef­fi­cient way for lo­cal tax­pay­ers.

“This of­ten in­volves a va­ri­ety of pro­fes­sion­als with rel­e­vant ex­per­tise on both sides of ev­ery case and we will con­tinue to ap­proach ev­ery sit­u­a­tion on its mer­its.”

Baker Small’s Twit­ter ac­count @bak­ers­mall is no longer ac­tive and the Mil­ton Keynes-based firm’s web­site is also un­avail­able.

The Gazette also found Baker Small’s phone line was down, and we re­ceived no re­sponse via email.

I would like to see the coun­cil stop us­ing them af­ter their in­sen­si­tive com­ments’

n RE­AS­SURED: Coun­cil deputy leader David Sim­monds says Baker Small has apol­o­gised

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