(Queen's Bench Division; Foskett J; 20 May 2008)
The claim was brought by a schizophrenic who had had a difficult and unhappy educational history until he began attending a special needs school at the age of 12. He alleged that relevant education and health authorities had failed to recognise and act appropriately in respect of his learning difficulties, and that if they had addressed his 'specific language disorder' when he was a young child he would have been better able to cope with his schizophrenia, which manifested itself when he was 19.
There had been some breaches of duty on the part of some of the defendants, and this was a child who had slipped through the net, but the fact that the child's needs had not been addressed actively and timeously could not be attributed to any individual or systematic negligence. The child had been assessed, on reasonable grounds, as not having a 'specific language disorder', which was the key diagnosis at the time when seeking a statement of special educational needs. Even if there had been some active and appropriate intervention it could not be established to the necessary standard that it would have made the kind of difference that would sound in damages. There had been some potential for conflict between the role of the authority's educational psychologist in examining and reporting on a child and in the decision-making process on whether the child meet the criteria for a statement of educational needs, which plainly had resource implications, but the practice could not be branded as negligent at the time.