Here you can find information on what to do if you are considering appealing to the Special Educational Needs (SEND) Tribunal about your child or young persons', Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan (or matters relating to it).
Before you can register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal you must have first spoken to a mediation advisor (unless your appeal is about the school Local Authority (LA) has named in your child's plan or if they haven't named a school in it).
What is a SEND Tribunal?
This is a legal body which hears appeals against decisions made by the local authority (LA) in relation to children's and young people's EHC needs assessments and EHC Plans. They are part of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service but try not to be too legalistic or technical. They aim to be user-friendly, and you should not need to appoint legal representation in order to take part, but you may find it helpful to have support from a voluntary organisation or friend at the hearing. At the hearing there will be a judge and a panel of tribunal members who have knowledge and experience of children and young people with SEN or disabilities.
What types of disagreements can you appeal about?
The First-Tier Tribunal, or SEND Tribunal, covers appeals about your child/young persons' EHC Plan. There are no fees for parents or young people to pay.
Specifically you can appeal about:
- if the local authority (LA) decides not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
- if the LA decides not to draw up an EHC plan once an assessment has been carried out
- the description of your child/young persons' SEN in the EHC plan, the special educational provision specified, the school or other institution or type of school or other institution (such as mainstream school/college) specified in the plan or that no school or other institution is specified
- an amendment to these elements of the EHC Plan
- if the LA decides not to amend an EHC Plan following a review or re-assessment
- if the LA decides to cease to maintain an EHC plan
It does not hear appeals about Section A or Personal Budgets.
Before 2018, it was only possible to appeal the educational aspects of EHC plans, however a two-year trial, and subsequent continuation of the extended powers given during that trial, has changed that. The SEND Tribunal can request recommendations about the health and social care aspects of an EHC Plan, where you are already making an appeal about the education part of the plan.
This means that you can raise all your concerns in one place and the Tribunal can take a more holistic, person-centred view of the needs of the child or young person named in the plan.
If the SEND Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of the EHC plan, it is not legally binding. The local authority is generally expected to follow such recommendations, but where they are not followed, the reasons for not doing so 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 the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) or seek judicial review.
The SEND Tribunal will also handle appeals against discrimination by schools or local authorities due to a child’s disability.
The Tribunal is independent of government and will listen to both sides of the argument before making a decision.
What do you have to do?
You must supply a copy of the decision you are appealing against and the date when LA made the decision, or the date of the mediation certificate, whichever is later. You must also give the reasons why you are appealing. This doesn't have to be a lengthy, legal document but it should explain why you (the appellant) disagree with the decision. You should also provide copies of any relevant documents, such as assessments, to the Tribunal.
Once your appeal has been registered, LA will be sent copies of the papers and a date by which they must respond. All parties will be given an approximate date for the hearing.
The tribunal will hold the hearing via video link or at a venue within 2 hours of your home. You do not have to go, but if you do you can ask questions and present the case yourself.
When can you appeal?
You can register an appeal after the following has happened:
- The EHC plan has been initially finalised, or after it has been amended or replaced
- You receive a letter informing you that LA does not intend to carry out an EHC Needs Assessment or does not intend to issue a Plan following the assessment.
- You have two months to register an appeal once a decision has been made or one month after a mediation certificate has been issued (whichever is later)
- You must have spoken to a mediation advisor and have a certificate issued by them saying that you have done so, unless you appeal is solely about the Educational Institution named.
- You do not have to take part in mediation in order to appeal
Can anyone help you with the process?
Yes, contact the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) for help.
They are impartial professionals who can explain the process and support you through it.
What are the timescales for registering an appeal?
You must have a certificate from the mediation adviser to register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. You have one month from receiving the certificate or two months from the original decision, whichever is later, to register an appeal.
Help with Online Hearings in the SEND Tribunal
If you have an online hearing at the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and would like to find out about what to expect and how you can prepare, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have released a short video.
You can find it on HMCTS YouTube page here: Video hearings at the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal - YouTube
Useful contacts and information
Worcestershire County Council SEN Support Services
Phone: 01905 845579
Department for Education
Education: Every school should publish their own complaints procedure on their website. In the case of the Local Authority please see our Council wide complaints procedures
Patient compliments and complaints – Integrated Care System
If you have a compliment or complaint relating to an NHS service you can contact us in the following ways:
- Write to: The Complaints Team, NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Kirkham House, John Comyn Drive, Perdiswell, Worcester, WR3 7NS
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org