Feb 12 2009
by Moira Sharkey, Western Mail
ONE of Wales’ leading education lawyers has launched a website which drafts legal letters and offers expert medical opinion to help parents of children
with special needs fight for better support, no matter what their income.
Mike Charles, a South Wales lawyer, has spent five years constructing Edusen with, he says, one aim in mind – to help parents who cannot afford professional
legal advice to demand specialist support for their children from local education authorities.
The website, which he funded personally, offers support to parents as well as schools around the world, from Wales and the UK, across America, Europe and
China and in just 24 hours of being launched last week, it had received almost 100,000 hits.
“I did not set out to do this as a business venture and invested a lot of my own money into it on the basis that I may never get it back, but the initial
response has been incredible,” said the father-of-two.
“I have been saddened over the years when parents come seeking help, but cannot afford to pay legal or expert fees to take a case and I have had to turn
“I have made a good living as a lawyer and this is my way of giving something back. There is nothing else like this in the world and while other lawyers
may not thank me for doing it, there is a genuine need for this service to help some of the most vulnerable children.”
Edusen uses a questionnaire with 50,000 variables to create case notes on each individual child, just as a lawyer would take on a first visit with parents,
from basic information on where they live, their age, the school they attend and lifestyle information, to their medical history and problems which have
been diagnosed. Detailed questions are asked on medical reports if they have been carried out. The website also offers an online test for a range of disorders
to find out if the child is displaying symptoms which should be checked further.
Once a full history is taken, Edusen can draft a bespoke legal letter to be sent to the local education authority to either ask for a statement of special
needs, challenge an existing statement or set out internationally-accepted medical opinion to support a case for different support for a child. And it
can even provide a list of schools in the local area which offer the appropriate support to meet individual needs. All the information inputted into the
site is fully protected.
Mr Charles estimates that the service the website provides would cost £3,500 if requested from a lawyer. The cost of registering with Edusen is £50.
“As well as accessing perfectly worded legal letters, parents can use this service to access the opinion of a team of world-renowned experts in special
educational needs,” he said. “If parents want to take the case further then Edusen will contact a nearby legal team or if they want further medical reports
carried out then we can provide a panel of experts. Edusen will contact the professional deemed best suited to deal with each case to seek an appointment.”
Mr Charles, who has worked as an education lawyer since 1994 and is based in Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan with Sinclairs Solicitors, has enlisted the
help of experts in America and the UK to provide the medical information on the site. Among those who provided support include Linnea Ehri, a professor
in educational psychology and speech and hearing sciences at the City University of New York who has published more than 100 research papers and advised
the US Senate on special educational needs.
Robert Savage of Montreal University’s Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology (ECP) provided expert information on dyslexia, while George
DuPaul a professor at Leigh University in Pennsylvania edited the information on Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related disorders.
In the UK Mr Charles worked with Ian Jordan, a visual processing consultant and a team of occupational and speech therapists in Ayre, Scotland, Vivienne
Clifford a member of the Association of Child Psychologists in Private Practice based in London. And Guildford-based psychologist Dr Brian Male who is
a retired medical director life care NHS Trust and honorary lecturer at St George’s Hospital Medical School, Developmental and Social Psychiatry section.
The website can be accessed at www.edusen.com/pages/index.php