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Clifford Chance

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7 March 2019

Global (all regions)

The Autism Professionals Awards annually recognise services and professionals who are leading the way in innovative autism practice and making a real difference to the lives of autistic people in the UK.

The unique partnership between the National Autistic Society (NAS)’s Education Rights Service and Clifford Chance LLP has given families fighting for the right education provision for their autistic children, access to free advice about their rights. And for families in most need, Clifford Chance have also provided free legal representation.

The partnership works in two ways. First, the NAS's Education Rights Service empowers families to advocate for their child’s rights to the education they need and deserve and to resolve disagreements with their child’s school or council. The aim is to avoid tribunals and less than 3% of families need tribunal support.

Second, where disagreements can only be resolved by a tribunal, Clifford Chance helps families who cannot afford legal support, representing them over many months in the preparation for hearings, and to undertake the advocacy at the hearings. This saves families hundreds of thousands in waived fees every year.

Clifford Chance also contributes to the NAS's volunteer training costs and the Clifford Chance Foundation has funded a number of families to help pay for crucial expert evidence in complex tribunal appeals.

In 2018, Clifford Chance also provided the NAS with legal representation at a successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal. This closed a loophole in the Equality Act, so schools can no longer discriminate against autistic students and exclude them on the basis of behaviour which is related to their autism.