Resolving disputes and mediation
It is impossible to avoid situations where for whatever reason someone is not happy with something that has happened. In the majority of cases it is possible to sort it out through a phone call, email or meeting. This is called an informal process. Just because it is informal does not mean whatever is agreed cannot be recorded or does not have to be done.
In some cases however the law recognises that there is a need to make a complaint about something and all organisations have policies in place to explain how this should happen. You can find out more on our Compliment and Complaints page.
If your child has special educational needs the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) can help you with raising things both formally and informally.
Disputes about Education, Health and Care Plans
If you are unhappy with a decision made by the local authority about your request for an EHCP, or the content of your son or daughter’s EHCP, you have the option to go to First Tier Tribunal (SEND) for an independent review of the decision.
Before going to Tribunal, you must speak with a Mediation provider.
You are able appeal to the SEN Tribunal if the local authority:
- Decides not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
- Decides not to issue an EHC plan
- Issues or amends an EHC plan but you disagree with any or all of the contents of Section B (special educational needs), Section F (special educational provision) or Section I (placement)
- Decides not to amend an EHC plan
- Decides to cease to maintain an EHC plan
If you are unhappy with a decision made by the local authority about your request for an Education, Health and Care Plan, or the content of your son or daughter’s EHC Plan, you have the option to go to First Tier Tribunal (SEND) for an independent review of the decision.
- Before going to Tribunal, you must consider Mediation. If it concerns the health or social care elements of an EHC Plan the tribunal is unable to deal with these as their remit currently only covers education.
Mediation is a less formal way of working out a solution to a problem. It involves the use of a completely independent person who is trained in resolving disputes to help the people involved agree on a way to resolve the problem. Mediation works best if the people involved are able to compromise as in these circumstances the mediator is able to use this to try and obtain an agreement that all involved are happy with. The cost of mediation is paid for by the local authority.
- If after speaking to the Mediation provider you wish to go straight to tribunal, you will be issued with a Mediation Certificate within three working days.
- If you do decide to try mediation and it is not successful or only partly successful the mediator must issue you a Mediation Certificate within three days of the process finishing so you can go to tribunal.
- You must speak to the mediation provider within two months of the decision that you are unhappy about otherwise you will lose the right to go to tribunal as the law only allows you to appeal within two months of the decision OR one month from the date of the Mediation Certificate, whichever is longer.
For information about mediation, details of the authority’s mediation provider or advice about tribunal please contact the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS).
Dispute resolution covers areas of disagreement not covered by mediation. Use of dispute resolution services is voluntary and must be agreed by all parties. Before involvement with the formal dispute resolution service you have the option to use the impartial Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) that all local authorities must provide. SENDIASS staff are trained in dispute resolution and SEND law and guidance.
The areas covered by dispute resolution services are disagreements between:
- parents or young people and local authorities, the governing bodies of maintained schools and maintained nursery schools, early years providers, further education institutions or the proprietors of academies (including free schools), about how these authorities, bodies or proprietors are carrying out their education, health and care duties for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN), whether they have Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans or not. These include duties on the local authority to keep their education and care provision under review, the duties to assess needs and draw up EHC plans and the duty on governing bodies and proprietors to use their best endeavours to meet children and young people’s SEN
- parents or young people and early years providers, schools or post-16 institutions about the special educational provision made for a child or young person, whether they have EHC plans or not
- parents or young people and Integrated Care Systems or ICSs (ICSs are the parts of the health service that pay services or commission them to provide health services like Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy etc.) health bodies or local authorities about health or social care provision during EHC needs assessments, while EHC plans are being drawn up, reviewed or when children or young people are being reassessed
- disagreement resolution services can also be used to resolve disagreements over special educational provision throughout assessments, the drawing up of EHC plans, while waiting for Tribunal appeals and at review or during re-assessments.
Information about how to appeal and guidance about what happens at a tribunal hearing can be in the Code of Practice for SEND 2014 (paragraph 11.50-11.52).
Appeals should be made directly to the HM Courts and Tribunal Service (Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal).
HM Courts and Tribunal Service contact details are; 1st Floor, Darlington Magistrates Court, Parkgate, Darlington, DL1 1RU,
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. This will apply to decisions made or EHC plans issued/amended from 3 April 2018.
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.
If you wish to appeal against a local authority decision and request 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 is available from the GOV.UK website.
If the Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of the EHC Plan, this is non-binding. This means that the local authority 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 of Education. If they are not followed, you have the right to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) or seek judicial review.
You can find out more by viewing the GOV.UK First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) webpage.
You can also contact SENDIASS for advice, support and resources. This service provides advice and support on special educational needs, they can be contacted at;
Cambridgeshire County Council, ALC2630, New Shire Hall, Emery Crescent, Enterprise Campus, Alconbury Weald, Huntingdon, PE28 4YE
or by telephone on 01223 699214 during term time or 01223 699211 during school holidays or at email@example.com. (not sure if contact details should be provided or a link to their page)
SENDIASS can also provide details of the informal arrangements set up to help resolve any disagreements between you and the local authority. Using this service does not affect your right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. An appeal to the Tribunal can run at the same time as any disagreement resolution.