Most disagreements about special educational provision can be resolved by talking with the early years setting, school, college or local authority. If you need help with this you can contact the Information, Advice and Support Service, which has two sections: Parent Partnership, which offers advice to parents and carers or the SEND Children and Young People's Advice and Support Service which children and young people can access independently.
It can however, sometimes be difficult to reach agreement and so a statutory requirement within the SEN Reforms means that each local authority must make arrangements for both disagreement resolution and mediation services to be available. The services are free, confidential and are independent of the local authority.
Parents and young people can use mediation before deciding whether to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal about decisions on assessment or the special educational element of a plan.
Disagreement resolution aims to resolve disagreements in a quick and informal way, using a trained and independent mediator to help the parties find a solution. The use of disagreement resolution services is voluntary and has to be with the agreement of all parties.
This service is available to help resolve disagreements about:
- how the education setting or local authority is carrying out its education, health and care duties for children and young people with special educational needs. This can include any of the SEN duties – not just those concerning EHC needs assessments or EHC plans
- the provision that the education setting is making. This applies to children and young people with any kind of SEN, not just those going through an EHC needs assessment or with an EHC plan
- the health or social care provision during an EHC needs assessment, while EHC plans are being drawn up or reviewed, while awaiting an appeal or when children or young people are being reassessed. In these cases the disagreement will be with the local authority or Clinical Commissioning Group, rather than the early years setting, school, or college.
The Sunderland SEND Information, Advice and Support can give you more information and advice about what is involved and the options open to you. You can also get support and advice from the Independent Support Workers. Both contact details are below:
Mediation is a voluntary process for parents and young people, which can be used if agreement cannot be reached about matters related to EHC plans. It is provided by a trained and accredited mediator who is commissioned by but independent of the local authority.
Mediation is available to parents or young people if there is a disagreement about the local authority’s decision:
- not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
- not to draw up an EHC plan after an EHC needs assessment has been done
- not to amend and EHC plan after an annual review or re-assessment
- to cease to maintain an EHC plan.
Mediation must also be available if parents or young people disagree with:
- the parts of the EHC plan that describe the child or young person’s special educational needs
- the special educational provision set out in the EHC plan
- the health and social care elements of an EHC plan
A request for mediation must be made within 2 months of the date of the decision notice by the local authority.
Parents and young people can also register an appeal to the SEND Tribunal about the matters listed above. This is an independent First-Tier Tribunal who hears parents’ or young peoples’ appeals against the decisions of the local authority in relation to special educational needs.
In order to register an appeal you must first contact an independent mediation adviser and obtain a certificate to show that you have done so. The mediation adviser will provide you with factual information; explain what is involved and answer any questions you may have about mediation. You can then choose whether you wish to go to mediation or not.
Sunderland City Council has commissioned Barnardo’s to be the provider of their mediation services. Barnardo’s can be contacted on 0191 478 4667.
There are some circumstances in which you do not need to have a certificate from a mediation adviser before you register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. This is the case if the appeal is solely about the name of the school, college or other institution named on the EHC plan, the type of school, college or other institution specified in the plan or the fact that no school or other institution is named. In addition you do not need to seek mediation advice if the appeal is solely about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan.
If you are unsure whether these exceptions apply you can contact Sunderland SEND Information, Advice and Support Service, Independent Support Workers or Barnardo’s Mediation Service for more information and advice.