Harper Macleod and the National Autistic Society Scotland are this week marking a significant milestone in their association to deliver the Education Rights Service to parents in Scotland.
Since the alliance began in 2006 the firm has supported the service by providing free representation to scores of families and helping parents secure the educational support they need for their children.
Harper Macleod's team helps the service and its volunteers provide access to advice on education law, right and entitlements, and where necessary represents families at educational tribunals and support the service with volunteer training. The partnership has involved thousands of hours of support, which would ordinarily have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees.
Martin Darroch, Chief Executive of Harper Macleod, said: "When we were first asked to become the Scottish partner for the Education Rights Service it struck a chord with our ethos and culture, and I'm delighted that we are still working together with NAS Scotland to deliver it so many years later.
"Families of autistic children can have an urgent need for support to understand and navigate often complex matters around education. As the country's only autism-specific education advocacy service, NAS Scotland’s Education Rights Service can be a life-changing resource for these families and it's clear that there is just as much need for the service as there was when we started in 2006.
"While you can analyse the service's impact in terms of numbers, we are dealing with people and the only thing that matters is making a difference to their lives. Even if we had only made a difference to one family, and one child, it would have been worth it. We are honoured to support families and volunteers throughout difficult and challenging circumstances and look forward to helping wherever we are needed as we move forward during what we know are tough times for education."
One parent, who has used the service during this period, said: "I cannot praise The Education Rights Service enough thank you for all the help and support you have given myself and my child. If it hadn’t been for you and the service you provide I would have given up a long time ago. You work alongside Harper Macleod, who provide free legal advice for parents and their children. This is also an invaluable resource. Whether you know it or not you empower us parents with your knowledge. It’s what keeps us fighting on to getting the needs of children met.”
Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland: "We're proud to celebrate the 15 years partnership between our Education Rights Service and Harper Macleod. Over the years the partnership has helped countless families who have been desperately fighting to get much needed support for their sons and daughters within school. Without support many autistic children struggle to be fully included, with a knock-on effect to their mental health and well-being and ultimately their attainment. Harper Macleod should be rightly proud of their achievements in helping so many autistic children and young people thrive and realise their potential."
Harper Macleod and NAS Scotland are celebrating the anniversary with a special virtual event for families, volunteers and those involved in the Education Rights Service in Scotland on the evening of Wednesday, 12 May.
You can find out more about the Education Rights Service here.