Milton Keynes law firm makes grovelling apology to parents of special needs children

A Milton Keynes law firm has been forced to make a grovelling apology after posting gloating tweets about winning a tribunal against the parents of children with special needs.

Tuesday, 14th June 2016, 4:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th June 2016, 5:12 pm

Local councils hire solicitors Baker Small to challenge parents who request support for children with have special educational needs or disabilities.

But the firm triggered an internet row by posting a series of tweets which appeared to boast about a recent win, and mock the parents of disabled children.

When the Knowlhill company was challenged by horrified parents it continued to send “disgusting” tweets - and even a picture of a laughing cat.

But after parents started lobbying local authorities to ditch the solicitors - who are paid over £300,000 by ONE council - they deleted the tweets and apologised.

The backlash began on Friday when an employee at the firm used its official Twitter account to brag about a win at an Applied Behavioural Analysis Tribunal.

The post said: “Great ABA Trib win this week… interesting to see how parents continue to persist with it. Funny thing is parents think they won;)”

When questioned by outraged parents, the tweeter replied: “Whenever someone thinks they have won and they have conceded 90% of their case, it does make me smile.”

Minutes later they added: “When parental solicitors champion their ‘wins’ they are lauded on twitter. Double standards I’m afraid.”

And then when another parent commented that they were having a ‘very bad night’ on Twitter, the firm said: “What, from the mob LOL! Please, sticks and stones and all that LOL!”

The firm then posted a picture of a laughing cat and a message: “Some great tweets received today from people who just see a one-sided argument… just shared them with my cat”.

The tweeter than added another pic of a luxurious-looking swimming pool with the caption: “Shame about the football but nice to be relaxing on twitter at the end of a busy week.”

The messages sparked a flurry of complaints from outraged parents on Twitter.

Donna Hollingworth said: “That is disgusting. @bakersmall you should be ashamed but I’m guessing that’s not a word you are familiar with.”

Rebecca Saunders added: “Disgusting behaviour highlights @bakersmall hunt for fees not justice. Parent fighting for support for their child is not crime.”

Roxy130384 said: “It is NEVER a ‘win’ when kids are missing out on much needed support! Disgusting firm. how do u lot sleep at night?”

Carla Capalbo wrote: “You should be ashamed of yourselves and struck off. Try living with autism and see what fun it is. Small’s the word!”

The firm, which is paid more than £300,000 by Gloucestershire County Council to represent the council in tribunals against parents, has now lost clients.

Cambridgeshire County Council said: “Having taken legal advice, we can confirm that we will not be using Baker Small for new cases.”

Milton Keynes Council however has never used Baker Small.

The firm has issued a grovelling apology and pledged to make a donation to the South West children’s hospice appeal.

Baker Small managing director Mark Small said: “A number of tweets were posted on the Baker Small twitter feed which have caused a great deal of upset and offence.

“We unreservedly apologise for the offence caused and the nature of the tweets, which were removed. Full and appropriate action will be taken to address the matter.

“We take our position as legal advisers to public bodies and also to parents very seriously and we recognise the complex nature of the SEN and disability legal system.

“It is with regret that yesterday, tweets were sent from us which were not acceptable regardless of the context.

“We do not wish, on any level, to cause distress and upset to parents and carers and it is with sincere regret that we have let ourselves down by publishing tweets which are not representative of the work or approach we adopt.”