I have just accepted the most incredible opportunity to pursue a career in Law. I am enrolled on the Qualifying Law Degree LLM at Birkbeck College.
But my challenges are far from over!
The costs of completing the degree in London, including living expenses, exceed £55,732.
I am applying for every source of financial support available and my Master's Loan has been approved. Combined with my Disability Benefits this figure lowers to approximately £24,000.
Update: Birkbeck have awarded me a bursary of £3,000 (paid in two installments). Small but valuable steps!
As you can see – I am nowhere near able to commence my Master's at Birkbeck on October 1st 2019.
I have no savings and no family resources to draw upon.
To add to my obstacles, the DWP has (rightly) declared me unfit to work which means I can't contribute to costs through part-time employment.
I will therefore be further investing in my health and wellbeing so that once my legal studies are completely finished in 3-4 years I am capable of entering the workplace.
I have nothing to draw on but my own burning desire to succeed. A burning desire to write a story that I hope will one day serve as an inspiration to all people with hidden disabilities that tells them: so much can be achieved in the face of adversity.
Story So Far
At the age of 9, I was awarded a scholarship to become a chorister at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle when The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys identified me as a young boy from a disadvantaged background who had the potential to become a valuable member of society.
Over the following 4 years I had the privilege of performing at iconic events such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, the opening of the British Memorial Garden at Ground Zero, New York and The Queen’s 80th Birthday banquet.
During my time as a chorister, I overcame some considerable mental health vulnerabilities and I eventually left the school as Head Chorister.
My future looked bright, and I couldn’t help being excited as I looked to the future. I was awarded a music scholarship to Lancing College and had a very real vision of a career in music.
At 14 however, security was replaced by turmoil. I was diagnosed with epilepsy – and undoubtedly life changing condition but nothing could have prepared me for the disaster that lay ahead.
Status Epilepticus has me in hostpital again
I was systematically forced out of school and although I was awarded a further scholarship to Charterhouse school who gave me exceptional support, the many months of missed education presented me with insurmountable challenges to overcome and having being diagnosed with M.E. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, my education completely broke down and I left school with no GCSE or A Level qualifications.
In 2010 Lancing College was found guilty of Unlawful Discrimination by the SENDiST Tribunal, but I was determined to not let my future completely collapse and proceeded to study with the Open University. Over the ensuing years, it became clear that a mere judgement confirming Discrimination could not compensate the damage caused.
I sued Lancing College for Breach of Contract and Professional Negligence.
I may have earned a privileged education, but my origins remained the same and I entered into legal proceedings with a budget to invest of £0. I would be representing myself with no legal experience or education.
I learned what I was up against in the first hearing. The school was investing some £250,000 in some of the most experienced representatives in the country. I wasn't even entitled to Legal Aid. It was this inbalance which inspired me and for the next four years my primary source of motivation was the battle that my Godfather likend to David and Goliath .
Thus, as I determinately studied full-time with the Open University to gain my first ever qualifications, I also worked with my mother full-time as both solicitor and barrister – researching matters of procedure and law as and when they were thrown at us, secretly regretting that I had chosen Art over Latin when I was thirteen!
All my efforts culminated in an 8 day trial where I instinctively entered a state-of-mind where I could detach myself from all the pent-up emotion of the last decade and focus on what mattered: the evidence, and its relevance in law.
Outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Judgement was passed. The school were professionally negligent, in breach of contract, and causetive of damages.
Both the Judge and the Barrister for the Defendants had comments on my performance which will resonate with me forever.
HH Judge Saggerson said the following of me:
‘You had to be here in this court room over the past week to see and appreciate the determination and the skill that has gone into the presentation of this case by Rhys Brown. A level of determination and a level of skill that one does not usually encounter in someone who has no legal or procedural training or experience. Indeed, even after the training and experience, one encounters many younger advocates and some older ones who never manage to grasp the essentials in the way Rhys Brown has grasped them here. And to present them in a coherent and articulate and measured and sensible manner.’
Alas - the damages awarded during trial were not even enough to cover debt incurred as a result of proceedings.
Now, in an incredible turn of events, The Judge and the Barrister for the Defendants have presented me with the most incredible opportunity. They both provided me with comprehensive references of my potential with a future in Law.
For my whole teenage and young-adult life I have been dedicated to activism improving the lives of the disadvantaged. I was an activist for the Child Rights Alliance for England. I spoke in the House of Lords to contribute to the writing of the Children and Families Act 2014 as a disabled student who had experienced discrimination. I have shared my experiences in Speakers House, Parliament, on radio, and at NUT conferences.
I am still always keen to hear of more ways that I can use my experience to improve the lives of others.
Speech at Speakers' House, Parliament.
Contributors will receive regular updates. There are exciting talks in the pipe-line of a concert to thank everyone who has contributed to helping me reach this passage into the next stage of my life.
Money raised will be protected by a disabled trust.
I will be delighted to talk more about who I am and answer any questions. I can be contacted directly at [email redacted]
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