A Shropshire solicitor and education expert warned that proposed changes to the way young people with special needs are supported is in danger of leaving some without any support at all.
The Government proposes to replace the current system of statements of need with a simpler, more family-friendly assessment in what is being claimed as the biggest shake-up for special needs education for three decades.
Bryony Walker, a partner with Mortimers solicitors, said that while an overhaul is necessary it should not be at the expense of some of those currently being helped.
“There is such a wide spectrum of youngsters with special educational needs, some much more severe than others,” said Mrs Walker, who is based in the Bridgnorth office of Mortimers.
“There have got to be different levels of support according to each child’s situation.
“While I think that children with more complex and perhaps more severe needs will benefit, this system is not appropriate for others who I fear will be shunted aside.
“It is all well and good in theory that parents be given control of budgets but in practice it is often impossible for them to know what is best.
“There could also be a bigger role for voluntary groups in providing service. But if the voluntary sector is starved of funding and resources, as it is now, how can proper, expert support possibly be given to those who need it?
“As I say, I welcome the idea of an overhaul and I think more mediation whereby parents, schools, health and social care are brought together, is to be encouraged.
“But the detail needs to be looked at so that some of those with perhaps less severe educational needs get the support they deserve.”
The team at Mortimers has welcomed back one of its original solicitors who has now returned to the practice’s property division.
Jane Alderson has re-joined the conveyancing department at Mortimers – which she joined when the firm launched in 1998 – and is based at its Bridgnorth office.
Jane is a well known figure in the town, having worked in Bridgnorth for several years and lived there all her life.
At the beginning of this year Jane received a call from Mortimers’ partner and co-founder Christopher Waters to ask whether she would consider coming back to the firm as cover for maternity leave.
“I welcomed the opportunity to work in Bridgnorth with a legal firm I knew well,” said Jane.
“Since I left Mortimers in 2002 it has grown a great deal and is now very well established.
“I won’t deny that it was a little strange at first but I settled back in really quickly and it’s great to be back a firm which has a real family feel to it and is so friendly.
“There are also some encouraging signs that the property market may be beginning to pick up again though the arrival of spring and sunnier weather usually helps!”
Mr Waters said he was delighted that Jane was back working with Mortimers.
He added: “Jane is extremely professional, very popular and a well known character in and around Bridgnorth.
“She knows both the industry and the area like the back of her hand and so it is a real coup to have her on board again.
“We are all delighted to welcome her back.”
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Mortimers are inviting anyone with employment issues to attend free-of-charge advice clinics at the firm’s newly launched Shrewsbury office.
Christopher Waters, the firm’s co-founder and employment law expert, is holding the clinics at the office, which is in Swan Hill Court in the centre of Shrewsbury, every Thursday between 3pm and 7pm.
He said: “Both employers and employees are very welcome to attend the clinics which are held by appointment only and last for 20 minutes.
“Unfortunately, largely because of the way that companies are having to adapt to the economic situation, we are finding that there are greater quantities of issues arising for employers and employees alike.
“We are here to help and we hope that these clinics will give people the opportunity to raise issues, find out about costs, procedures and everything which they might expect to encounter in certain situations.
“The clinics are being held are in our new offices which are in a discreet location in the centre of Shrewsbury, with parking available.”
*To make an appointment, contact Mr Waters on 01743 298629.
The Bridgnorth branch of a Mortimers solicitors is being bolstered by the arrival of one of the firm’s senior partners.
Karen Brake has been heading the family department at Ludlow office of Mortimers for more than 10 years but is now moving to the firm’s Whitburn Street base.
Mrs Brake said today that she was sad to be leaving Ludlow but was at the same time greatly looking forward to working in Bridgnorth, a town she knows well, where she will be providing both private client and legal aid services.
“It was always likely that I would move to Bridgnorth at some point but I wasn’t sure when,” said Miss Brake.
“After the Bridgnorth office secured the contract to supply publicly funded work, and Ludlow unfortunately didn’t, my decision was made much easier.
“I am now just looking forward to serving the people of Bridgnorth and surrounding area, as well as retain the strong links I have built up in Ludlow after so many years working there.”
Karen Brake can now be contacted on 01746 761000.