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What is a SEND tribunal?

What is a SEND tribunal and how is it part of the SEND system?

If you have a child or young person with special educational needs and or disabilities (SEND) you may need to know about the SEND tribunal process.

This is part of a process that can help to resolve disagreements.

If you are unhappy about a decision made by the Local Authority / Hackney Learning Trust you should try to talk to your plan coordinator and if that does not resolve the problem a senior member of the EHC Planning Team to see if they can help resolve the concern.

Find out more: Education, Health and Care Planning Team

If this is not effective there is also a mediation service who can help try to resolve your concerns.

If this does not help resolve your concern the next stage of resolution may be through going to a SEND tribunal panel. 

A SEND tribunal is a legal process where you can get a decision you don’t agree with heard  by an independent panel at a higher level.

There are no legal cost to present your case to tribunal (unless you choose to engage a legal representative to act on your behalf).

Tribunals can have a judge and panel member or members who are considered experts in their field.

They are impartial and do not favour one party over another. They base their decisions on the evidence and information they are presented with from both parties.

Once they reach a decision they make findings, recommendations and orders for things to be done, not done or reconsidered.

Decisions made at tribunal are binding on all parties, Local Authorities and parents or young people.

The exceptions to this are decisions made through The SEND Tribunal national Trial - Single Route of Redress which is a system that looks at health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care plans rather than just the education aspects of theses and can make non-binding recommendations as part of a SEND appeal.   

Last updated: 13/11/19

Mediation

The reforms require parents to consider mediation before lodging an appeal.

At a mediation meeting the process will be explained and then you can decide whether to try it or not.

A certificate will be available from the mediation service if you decide it’s not for you.

You must have this certificateif you wish to lodge an appeal.

You do not need to attend mediation if your concern is about naming a school in

section i of the EHC plan. 

Find out more: KIDS mediation

What kind of decisions would go to a tribunal appeal?

  • The Local Authority  / Hackney Learning Trust decide not to carry out an EHC assessment
  • The Local Authority  / Hackney Learning Trust decide not to issue an EHC Plan after an assessment

If you did get an EHC plan but do not agree with decisions you felt were wrong or inaccurate.

This might be the descriptions of…

  • Your child’s needs in their plan
  • Inadequate provision in their final plan
  • Against a school that did or didn't get named in a final plan

Where you requested but were refused…

  • a reassessment
  • amendments to your plan following a review or assessment

Where you have been notified that...

  • the Local Authority  / Hackney Learning Trust intend to cease to maintain (stop funding) your child's EHC plan

Are there any time limits to making an appeal?

Yes, you must register your appeal within two months of the date the LA / HLT sent a letter that caused you to want to appeal the decision or sent the final EHC Plan that stated something you didn’t agree with.

Disability Discrimination claims must be made within six months of the alleged incident or cause of discrimination.

The tribunal may extend these times in rare circumstances where they feel there was a good reason for the deadline being missed but it is better to lodge your appeal within the set timelines.

Who can make appeals to a SEND tribunal?

The following people can make an appeal to a tribunal:

  • Parents of children aged 0-25 with SEND
  • Young People aged 16-25 (if they have capacity to make decisions relating to the case)

Do I have to have legal support to go to tribunal?

Going to Tribunal can be hard work and stressful for anyone but especially so if you are already facing difficulties in life.

If you are unhappy about a decision made by the Local Authority / Hackney Learning Trust (or other aspects including social care and health if you choose the single route of redress) you should try to talk to a senior member of the relevant team to see if they can help resolve the concern.

If this is not effective the mediation service can help try to resolve your concerns.

Find out more: KIDS mediation

If this does help resolve your concern the next stage of resolution may be through going to a SEND tribunal panel. 

There are organisations that can help and you should contact them for advice and support. Even having good sympathetic friends or talking to other parents who have been through a tribunal can be helpful. 

Young people who choose to make an appeal to a tribunal can have help from their parents at any point they wish. They can also get help from other services. See who can help in the download section of this page.

Each local authority is required to have an Information Advice and Support service who can help parents/carers and young people who are not satified with decisions that have been made. Hackney SENDIAGS can provide information advice and support on preparing for and going to tribunals. 

Find out more: Information on SEND tribunals

Find out more: Hackney SENDIAGS (SEND Information, Advice and Guidance Service)

Regional and national : SEND Organisations  Information Sheet

SEND complaints: guide for young people aged 16 to 25 in education

This guide is for young people aged 16 to 25. It is useful if you want to know who to talk to if you are unhappy with the help you are getting for your special educational needs or disability at school or college. Organisation supporting young people might also find the guide useful.

Find out more: SEND complaints: guide for young people aged 16 to 25 in education

Single Route of redress - National Trial for SEND Tribunals

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 (EHC) plans as part of a national trial. The trial will apply to decisions made or EHC plans issued/amended from 3 April 2018 and will run until August 2020, when a decision will be made on its continuation.

To date, you have only been able to appeal the educational aspects of EHC plans.  The trial gives you new rights to request recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision specified in EHC plans, in addition to the educational aspects, when making a SEND appeal.  This gives you the opportunity to raise all your concerns about an EHC plan in one place.

It is only possible for the Tribunal to consider the health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan where you are already making an appeal in relation to the education aspects of the EHC plan 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 EHC plan, 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, including from your local Information Advice and Support Service (IASS).

If the SEND Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of an EHC plan, this is non-binding. The local authority and/or health commissioner is 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 (LGSCO) or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) 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 EHC plan?

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

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

What does this mean for local areas?

The Trial places responsibility on local authority SEND teams 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 timeframe set by the Tribunal, seeking permission to bring additional witnesses to the hearing as necessary
  3. If a recommendation has been made, send the health and social care response letters to the evaluators at SENDletters@IFFResearch.com

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/young person and the LA SEND team within 5 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 local authority decision 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 EHC plan, 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. Advice 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 6 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 the LA decision you wish to appeal and consider whether mediation might be a way to resolve your disagreement with the LA. If you want to appeal only about the school or other institution named in the EHC plan you do not have to contact a mediation adviser.

You can go to mediation about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan, 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 EHC plan.  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

  • A guidance document on the national trial is published as part of a toolkit of support
  • [Insert link to local SENDIASS]
  • The evaluation of the trial is led by IFF Research working with Belmana. For any questions or to get involved please get in touch with them at SENDtrial@IFFResearch.com freephone: 0800 035 6051.

Summary for parents and young people explaining the key elements of the national trial

A guidance document on the national trial is published as part of a toolkit of support and is linked to in the external website links on this page. 

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