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Appeal or make a complaint

Before you appeal or make a complaint

Before you make a formal appeal or complaint it is important that you have talked through your problems with us as it may be that there is a simple solution that will make everyone happy.

To find out how to contact our SEND services go to the Contact us page

If you have a complaint about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in the Local Authority you can contact us by email on sen@nelincs.gov.uk or by telephone on 01472 323236.

Department for Education guidance

A guide for young people on how to resolve special education needs and disability (SEND) disagreements is available to read on GOV.UK.

Where agreements cannot be reached by those involved in decisions about a child or young person it is important to come to an early resolution.

Disagreement resolution services

Use of the disagreement resolution services is voluntary and has to be with the agreement of all parties.

The service in North East Lincolnshire is provided by Community Accord, who are independent of the local authority.

These services are available to parents and young people to resolve disagreements about any aspect of SEN provision, and health and social care disagreements during the processes related to Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments and EHC plans.

The resolution service helps to resolve four types of disagreements:

  1. 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). It focuses on how they are carrying out their education, health and care duties for children and young people with SEN, whether they have EHC plans or not.
  2. Disagreements between 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.
  3. Disagreements between parents or young people and Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) 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.
  4. Disagreements between local authorities and health commissioning bodies. These disagreements do not involve parents and young people.

A decision by parents and young people not to use disagreement resolution services has no effect on their right to appeal to the Tribunal.

Disagreement resolution meetings are confidential and without prejudice to the Tribunal process and the Tribunal will disregard any offers or comments made during them.

Go to the Community Accord website for more information about Disagreement resolution and Mediation sessions.

If parents or young people want it to, mediation can take place following decisions by a local authority:

  • to not to carry out an EHC needs assessment
  • to not to draw up an EHC plan
  • after they receive a final EHC plan or amended plan
  • following a decision not to amend an EHC plan
  • following a decision to cease to maintain an EHC plan

The mediation arrangements are specifically linked to decisions about EHC needs assessments and plans.

Mediation on matters which can be appealed to the Tribunal

Parents and young people who wish to make an appeal to the Tribunal may do so only after they have contacted an independent mediation adviser and discussed whether mediation might be a suitable way of resolving the disagreement.

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 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
  • 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 time frame 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 GOV.UK and further guidance can be found in the SEND pathfinder toolkit.

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 SEND pathfinder toolkit of support
  • For any questions or to get involved in the trial please get in touch with IFF Research at SENDtrial@IFFResearch.com or by phone on 0800 035 6051
  • To speak to a specific service go to our Contact us page
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