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Mediation, dispute and complaints

We work with parents, carers and young people to reach agreements about what is needed to meet a child or young person’s needs. Professionals work in collaboration with parents, carers and young people to produce the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), determine their outcomes and what services and support are required.

If you have any concerns, we recommend you talk to a member of the SEN team or our SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS), which is independent of the council and provides informal, impartial advice. Both teams will work with you to address your concerns and reach a satisfactory resolution for all parties. It is in everyone’s interest to try and resolve any disagreements without the additional burden of having to go to tribunal.

If you have a disagreement or issue that you wish to discuss we encourage you to talk to the relevant service:

If the relevant service is unable to resolve your issue, it may be necessary for parents, carers and young people to use the mediation or disagreement resolution service. 

Mediation and disagreement resolution

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process. You will be helped by a neutral third party mediator to resolve problems. The mediator helps participants reach a solution they are happy with.

Disagreement resolution is a formal process where the council, schools, parents and carers meet to find a solution to a difference of opinion.

Participation in mediation and disagreement resolution does not take away the parent or carers right to appeal to the SEN tribunal. However, we aim to resolve all disagreements and disputes at a local level by having honest and open dialogue.

  • Resolution services for education – mediation and disagreement resolution services are provided by Global Mediation, an experienced SEND provider. If we are unable to work with you to resolve your issues, then you can use their services. For more information visit Global Mediation. You can also contact them by telephone on 020 8441 1355 or 0800 064 448, or by email at sen@globalmediation.co.uk.
  • Resolution services for health when the parent, carer or young person only has a concern or issue about the health element of the EHCP, it is the responsibility of North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group to work with the family to resolve this 
  • Resolution services for social care - you should begin by speaking to the person dealing with your case. This may be a keyworker, lead professional, or a social worker (or their manager). We aim to resolve issues as soon as possible. If you need to, you can progress a stage one formal complaint.

If you're aged 16 to 25 and unhappy with the help you get at your school or college for your special educational needs or disability, you can find out how to get more help by visiting Department of Education.

Special educational needs and disability tribunal

If you involve Global Mediation but your issues remain unresolved, you have the option to proceed to the SEND tribunal. You will be asked to produce a copy of a certificate at the SEND tribunal to show that you have first sought to resolve your issue through mediation.

For more information, email sendistqueries@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk or contact them on 01325 289 350.

Making a complaint about something else

The information above relates specifically to Education, Health and Care Plans. If you are unhappy about something else, and have been unable to resolve the problem by talking to the service or department directly, then you may want to make formal complaint.

Single route of redress national trial

We're extending the powers of the first-tier tribunal (SEND tribunal), to make recommendations about the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). The trial will apply from 3 April 2018 and run for two years.

To date, you could only appeal the educational parts of EHCPs. The trial also gives new rights to ask for recommendations about the health and social care needs and provisions given in EHCPs. This means you can raise all your concerns about an EHCP in one place.

The tribunal can only consider the health or social care part of the EHCP if you’re already making an appeal about the educational part.

What this means for parents and young people

If you’re unhappy with a decision not to issue an EHCP, or with the special educational content or placement in the plan, you can appeal to the SEND tribunal. This means the tribunal will take into account all the needs of the child or young person. 

This does not stop you from also complaining about other things you disagree with through other complaints procedures. You should seek advice about the different routes available, such as from your local Information Advice and Support Service (IASS).

Recommendations from the tribunal about health or social care parts of an EHCP are usually followed, but are not legally binding. If they aren't followed, the reasons must be put in writing to you and the Department for Education through the evaluators. You can then complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) or ask to have the decision reviewed in court.

Requesting recommendations 

You can request the tribunal makes a recommendation about health and social care needs as part of an appeal relating to:

  • the description of the child or young person’s special educational needs in an EHCP
  • the special educational provision specified in an EHCP
  • the school or other educational institution named in an EHCP
  • a decision by the local authority not to issue an EHCP
  • a decision by the local authority not to carry out a re-assessment for a child or young person who has an EHCP
  • a decision by the local authority not to amend an EHCP following a review or re-assessment
  • a decision by the local authority to cease to maintain an EHCP

What this means for local areas

Local authority SEND teams will be responsible for:

  • informing parents and young people of their new rights through decision letters and the local offer
  • providing evidence to the tribunal from health and social care within a timeframe and seeking permission to bring extra witnesses to the hearing if needed
  • sending health and social care response letters to the evaluators  

Health and social care commissioners will be responsible for:

  • responding to requests for information and evidence within a timeframe
  • sending a witness to attend a hearing if needed
  • responding to the parent or young person and SEND team within five weeks of a recommendation being made, with either the steps to be taken or reasons for not following the recommendation.

How to request a health or social care recommendation

If you want to appeal against a local authority decision on any of the grounds above and want the tribunal to consider your concerns, you should follow the normal appeals process. You can find forms and advice on making SEND appeals by visiting GOV.UK. More information can be found in the toolkit.

Taking part in the evaluation

There will be an independent evaluation of the trial to decide if the new tribunal recommendation powers should be continued after the trial. This will run until March 2021.

The evaluation will be based on evidence from interviews with parents and young people going through the appeals process. This could include telephone or online interviews after the appeal hearing or when the appeals process is complete. There will also be a follow-up interview six months later to see how recommendations have been carried out and what the impact has been. 

Parents and young people who take part in the trial will receive a letter from the Tribunal about the evaluation and how their personal data will be protected and stored confidentially.

Mediation during the trial

Before you can register an appeal with the tribunal, you must contact a mediation adviser within two months of the decision You do not have to contact a mediation adviser if you only want to appeal about the school or other institution.

You can ask for recommendations about the health and social care parts of an EHCP without mediation advice as long as you are also appealing an education issue.

Once you have contacted or taken part in mediation, you will be issued with a certificate. This will be needed if you’re still unhappy and wish to progress to an appeal. with the tribunal. The appeal must be made within two months of the or one month after the issue of the certificate.

If mediation resolves the educational issues, you will not be able to appeal to the tribunal on any health or social care issues. Mediation gives us a chance to resolve disagreements and can be quicker than an appeal. It does not affect your right to make an educational appeal. 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 toolkit of support
  • The evaluation of the trial is led by IFF Research working with Belmana. For any questions or to get involved, email sendtrial@iffresearch.com or contact them on 0800 035 6051.

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