You can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal if you disagree with our decisions about your child's special educational needs and the disagreement hasn't been resolved by disagreement resolution or mediation.

local offer logo Although we agree with parents on most SEN issues, there may be times where a disagreement arises.

We aim to make decisions about provision for children and young people with SEN and disabilities as soon as possible.

We also aim to make decisions jointly with children, young people and their parents.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. Resolving disagreements

Disagreement resolution is free, confidential and aims to resolve any disagreements in a quick, informal way using a neutral person (a mediator).

Meetings are held in a safe, neutral environment that allows for both parties to be listened to and understood.

Disagreement resolution and mediation are positive ways of resolving disagreements for parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities, us and their school when there is a disagreement about how best to meet their child’s need.

You have a right to access an independent service to try to resolve disagreements and can arrange for independent SEN mediation.

Disagreement resolution consists of an independent facilitator bringing together all parties to seek to resolve disagreements through discussion. You can take someone with you if you wish.

Contact the independent disagreement resolution and mediation service for Lambeth:

KIDS London SEN Mediation Service
Telephone: 020 7520 0405
Email: enquiries.london@kids.org.uk
Visit the KIDS London SEN Mediation Service website

You can also contact the Lambeth SEND Information Advice Support Service for neutral information and support.

If you are involved in resolving a dispute, this does not affect your right to appeal to the Lambeth SEN and Disability Tribunal.

2. Mediation before making an appeal

Mediation applies where parents and young people wish to make an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

Parents and young people should consider mediation before submitting their appeal to the Tribunal in the hope that a disagreement can be resolved quickly and amicably.

The aim of mediation is to reach an agreement that helps everyone to move on.

The mediation meeting is led by an independent person (the mediator) who will support discussion and make sure everyone is treated fairly. The mediator is neutral so does not take sides of put forward discussions or possible solutions.

The parties - the authority and the family/young person - are in control of the outcome. The mediation process helps them to reach an agreement that is acceptable to everyone.

3. Making an appeal if an agreement isn't reached

You can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal if you disagree with our decisions about your child's special educational needs and the disagreement hasn't been resolved by disagreement resolution or mediation.

For example, we may not agree that your child needs extra support in the classroom to help them with learning difficulties.

You usually have to appeal to the tribunal within two months of getting our decision letter.

You can contact us to talk about appeals and tribunals:

Appeals against our decisions no longer go to the High Court, but to the 'First-Tier Tribunal' of the British Court System.

To find out more about the process and how to appeal, contact:

HM Courts & Tribunal Service
Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal
Telephone: 01325 289 350
Email: sendistqueries@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk
Visit the SEND Tribunal website

4. SEND Tribunal national trial for single route of redress

What is the national trial?

The government are extending the powers of the First-tier Tribunal (SEND), sometimes referred to as the ‘SEND Tribunal’, to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) as part of a two-year trial.

The trial will apply to decisions made or EHCPs issued or amended from 3 April 2018.

To date, you have only been able to appeal the educational aspects of EHCPs. The trial gives you new rights to request recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision specified in EHCPs, in addition to the educational aspects, when making a SEND appeal.

This gives you the opportunity to raise all your concerns about an EHCP in one place.

It is only possible for the Tribunal to consider the health and, or social care aspects of the EHCP where you're already making an appeal in relation to the education aspects of the EHCP and the education aspect must remain live throughout the appeal.

What does this mean for parents and young people?

If you are unhappy with a decision not to issue an EHCP, or with the special educational content or placement in the plan, you can make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

This trial now gives you the opportunity to also request recommendations about the health and social care content of the plan at the same time. This will mean the Tribunal will take a more holistic, person-centred view of the needs of the child or young person.

This does not prevent you also complaining about other aspects of your disagreement through other complaint procedures. You should seek advice about the different routes available - the Lambeth Information Advice and Support Service can help with this.

If the SEND Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of an EHCP, this is non-binding. We and, or the health commissioner are generally expected to follow such recommendations, but they are not legally binding.

Where they are not followed, the reasons for not following them must be explained and set-out in writing to you and to the Department for Education through the evaluators.

If they are not followed, you can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman or seek to have the decision judicially reviewed.

Further information on the roles of these bodies can be found on their websites.

When can a parent or young person request recommendations about the health and social care elements of an EHCP?

You can request the Tribunal makes recommendations about the health and/or social care aspects of EHCPs as part of an appeal relating to:

  • the description of the child/young person’s special educational needs in an EHCP
  • the special educational provision specified in an EHCP
  • the school or other educational institution named in an EHCP
  • a decision by the local authority not to issue an EHCP
  • a decision by the local authority not to carry out a re-assessment for a child/young person who has an EHCP
  • a decision by the local authority not to amend an EHCP following a review or re-assessment
  • a decision by the local authority to cease to maintain an EHCP.

What does this mean for local areas?

The trial places responsibility on us to:

  1. inform parents and young people of their new rights through decision letters and the local offer
  2. provide evidence to the Tribunal from the health and social care bodies in response to any issues raised within the time frame set by the Tribunal, seeking permission to bring additional witnesses to the hearing as necessary
  3. send the health and social care response letters to the evaluators at SENDletters@IFFResearch.com if a recommendation has been made.

It also places responsibility on health and social care commissioners to:

  1. respond to any request for information and evidence within the timeframe set by the Tribunal
  2. send a witness to attend the hearing as required
  3. respond to the parent or young person and the LA SEND team within five weeks of a recommendation being made, setting out the steps they have decided to take or giving reasons why they are not going to follow the recommendation.

How can a parent or young person request a health or social care recommendation?

If you wish to appeal against a decision we've made on any of the grounds above and want to request that the Tribunal considers your concerns about the health and, or social care aspects of the EHCP, you should follow the normal process for bringing an appeal to the Tribunal and tick the box on the form relating to a health and, or social care appeal.

Aadvice on making SEND appeals to the Tribunal and the appeal form is available on the GOV.UK website and further guidance can be found in the trial toolkit of support.

Taking part in the evaluation

There will be an independent evaluation of the trial to inform a decision on whether the new tribunal recommendation powers should be continued after the trial. The evaluation will run alongside the trial, from January 2018 to March 2021.

It is important that the evaluation is based on robust evidence, and the evaluators are therefore strongly encouraging participation from parents and young people.

This could include taking part in a telephone or online interview just after the appeal hearing (or when the appeal process has been completed, if earlier), and then a follow-up interview six months later.

These interviews will help the evaluators to gather the views of parents and young people on the appeal process, as well as identify how recommendations have been implemented and what the (early) impact has been.

Parents and young people that take part in the trial will receive a letter from the Tribunal explaining more about the evaluation and how their personal data will be stored confidentially and how it will be protected.

As a parent or young person, do I have to consider mediation as part of the trial?

Before you can register an appeal with the Tribunal, you must contact a mediation adviser within two months of our decision you wish to appeal and consider whether mediation might be a way to resolve your disagreement with us.

If you want to appeal only about the school or other institution named in the EHCP you do not have to contact a mediation adviser.

You can go to mediation about the health and social care elements of an EHCP, but this is not compulsory. You can request recommendations about health and social care issues without having to receive mediation advice or attend mediation about those issues, provided there is also an education issue about which you are appealing.

Once a mediation adviser has been contacted, or once you have taken part in mediation, you will be issued with a certificate. This will be necessary if you are still unhappy and wish to progress to an appeal with the Tribunal.

An appeal to the Tribunal must usually be made within two months of the decision about which the appeal is being made or one month following the issuing of the mediation certificate, whichever is the later.

If mediation resolves the educational issues, you will not be able to appeal to the Tribunal on any health and, or social care aspects of the EHCP.

However, mediation provides an opportunity for us to resolve disagreements and it can be completed more quickly than an appeal. It does not affect your right to make an educational appeal, and some aspects of the disagreement can go to appeal even when other aspects are resolved.

Help and further information