A leading Welsh education lawyer has launched a website to help out parents of children with special needs. The website drafts legal letters and offers expert medical opinion.
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 them away.
"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 Ģ3,500 if requested from a lawyer. The cost of registering with Edusen is Ģ50.
"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, Moira Sharkey reported for Western Mail.
The website can be accessed at www.edusen.com/pages/index.php