Special Educational Needs Tribunals
The SEND Tribunal is a formal means of resolving disputes between the Local Authority and parents, carers and young people about the support provided to them via an Education Health and Care Plan. It forms part of the First-tier Tribunal (Health, Education and Social Care Chamber). Tribunals are overseen by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.
Is a tribunal the only way forward when we disagree?
There is a range of support and advice available for parents/carers and young people if you disagree with a decision related the Education Health and Care plan process or the support provided as a result of a plan if you feel you don’t want to go straight down the tribunal path. The SEND team within the Local Authority is more than happy to hold a way forward meeting with you to discuss the situation and look at ways to try and resolve the disagreement.
Please take time to look at our Education Health and Care Planning Guidance.
Who can appeal to the Tribunal about EHC needs assessments and plans
Parents (in relation to children from birth to the end of compulsory schooling) and young people (over compulsory school age until they reach age 25) can appeal to the Tribunal about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans, following contact with a mediation adviser in most cases Young people can register an appeal in their name but can also have their parents’ help and support if needed.
Parents and young people have two months to register an SEN appeal with the Tribunal, from the date when the local authority sent the notice containing a decision which can be appealed or one month from the date of a certificate which has been issued following mediation or the parent or young person being given mediation information, whichever is the later.
Once the appeal is registered the local authority will be sent a copy of the papers filed and will be given a date by which they must respond and asked to provide details of witnesses – this will apply to all parties. The parties will also be told of the approximate hearing date. Hearings are heard throughout the country at Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service buildings. The Tribunal will try to hold hearings as close to where the appellant lives as possible. Appeals are heard by a judge and a panel of Tribunal members who have been appointed because of their knowledge and experience of children and young people with SEN or disabilities. The local authority will provide a bundle of papers for each of the panel members and the parent, including any document requested by the parent. Advice on making SEN appeals to the Tribunal is available from the Ministry of Justice.
What can be be considered by the Tribunal?
The Tribunal hears appeals against decisions made by the local authorities in England in relation to children's and young people’s EHC needs assessments and EHC plans. It also hears disability discrimination claims against schools and against local authorities when the local authority is the responsible body for a school.
In particular, this includes:
- their decision to not carry out an Education Health and Care assessment
- their decision to not create an Education Health and Care plan
- the Special Educational support in the Education Health and Care plan
- the school named in the Education Health and Care plan
- you believe that a school or Local Authority has discriminated against your disabled child
- where the Local Authority has decided to cease an EHC plan
What decisions can the Tribunal reach?
The Tribunal has prescribed powers under the Children and Families Act 2014 to make certain decisions in relation to appeals. The Tribunal can dismiss the appeal, order the local authority to carry out an assessment, order the local authority to make and maintain an EHC plan or to maintain a plan with amendments. The Tribunal can also order the local authority to reconsider or correct a weakness in the plan, for example, where necessary information is missing. Local authorities have time limits within which to comply with decisions of the Tribunal
What support is available for parents and carers to access the Tribunal?
You could be entitled to legal aid to pay for a meeting with a solicitor.
There are also local and national organisations which can help you consider if an appeal to the tribunal is appropriate, and how to prepare for an appeal. Each Local Area is required to appoint an independent advice and support service (known as SENDIAS). In North Somerset this service is provided by Supportive Parents.
HM Courts & Tribunals have produced some useful videos about Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal process.
Single Route of Redress – National Trial
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 two-year trial. The trial will apply to decisions made or EHC plans issued/amended from 3 April 2018.
Due to the understandable pressures local areas and families are under as a result of Coronavirus, the Government believes it is not the right time to introduce any changes to this policy, and has decided to extend the trial until 31 August 2021.
You can find out more about the national trial here. The Government have also produced some useful videos about the SEND tribunal process.