Special Educational Needs Tribunals
A simple guide for parents, and an information sheet co-produced by children and young people is now available.
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?
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.
You can ask the Tribunal to make non-binding recommendations on health and/or social care aspects of EHC plans as part of an appeal relating to:
- 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
- the description of the child/young person’s special educational needs in an EHC plan
- the special educational provision specified in an EHC plan
- the school or other educational institution named in 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 SEND AND YOU.
HM Courts & Tribunals have produced some useful videos about Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal process.