CCLC brings a successful Upper Tribunal appeal which provides guidance on registration of disability discrimination claims

Following a successful appeal by Coram Children’s Legal Centre, the Upper Tribunal has provided guidance on how the registration of discrimination claims should be made.

In F v Responsible Body of School W [2020] UKUT 112 (AAC), Head of Education Law Qaisar Sheikh acted for the Appellant through his mother. The Appellant is young person (F) with complex needs, including a diagnosis of autism which was made harder to manage due to a dermatological condition.

F was permanently excluded from his school due to a number of incidents between February and April 2019. F’s mother had brought a claim of disability discrimination on the basis that the exclusion was unlawful, and other complaints were made. This included a failure to make reasonable adjustments contrary to section 20 of the Equality Act 2010.

Although the claim was registered by the First Tier Tribunal (FTT), the failure to make reasonable complaints was not referred to in the case management directions. CCLC sought to vary the directions on the basis that the “failure to make reasonable adjustment” allegations were distinct from the exclusion and ought to be considered separately in their own right. The FTT, whilst acknowledging that the case management did not to address the stand-alone reasonable adjustment complaints, found that this part of the claim was insufficiently pleaded. CCLC appealed to the Upper Tribunal (UT).

Guidance from the Upper Tribunal

The appeal was successful. The UT overturned the FTT’s decision, directing the reasonable adjustments complaints to be registered, and in doing so provided some much needed guidance. The UT commented that

merely because the reasonable adjustment claims could be relevant to the proportionality of the respondent’s action in connection with permanent exclusion does not provide an answer to why the free-standing reasonable adjustment claims could not proceed: one does not exclude the other.

Furthermore, the UT noted that there was value providing “initial, provisional, guidance to the parties, not least in discrimination cases with their potential for multiple heads of claim” and that there could lawfully be a registration system “which may have the effect of screening out some cases, or parts of cases” on a sufficiently defined basis. However, importantly, the UT stressed that there has to exist procedural safeguards. The UT also advised the FTT to exercise caution in bringing disability discrimination claims to an unduly early end.

CCLC instructed Counsel Jake Rylatt of No5 Chambers who provided excellent advocacy on behalf of the Appellant.

The full decision can be read here.

If you feel your child has been discriminated against at school you can find out more about our services here.