Local Authorities are only required to provide support which is suitable and appropriate to meet a child’s needs. Therefore, it is inevitable that there will be cases where there is a disagreement between parents, the young person and the Local Authority about how a child/young person’s needs are best met.
When there is a dispute over a child’s educational provisions and it cannot be resolved through open mediation, parents and the young person (16+) have the right to appeal the decision. It is addressed by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). This is a specialist and independent board which sits within the HM Court Service.
Although the SENDIST process is more informal than an ordinary court and is inquisitorial in nature, it has become more legalistic. Whether you choose to be legally represented or not depends on the complexity of the issues under scrutiny and your confidence to present the case before the Tribunal.
Parents and carers can seek support from a range of people including "advocates", "charities" or "lay representatives", however, they should be careful about appointing non-regulated representatives. If you needed to have an important operation, would you have it performed by an unregulated doctor?
The Tribunal process can be gruelling for parents and the process can take up to 20 weeks from lodging the appeal. On lodging an appeal, the Tribunal will fix a hearing date and issue case directions for the disclosure of evidence by both parties.
Appeals will be heard across the country in local venues and depending on the type of appeal many hearings will last one day. More complex cases can be two or even three days in length and it is important that this is discussed with your representatives at the commencement of the appeal to avoid the risk of an adjournment.
All Tribunal hearings are managed by a specialist Judge who is legally qualified and depending on the type of appeal, they will be assisted by two specialist panel members. They have experience in SEN and are there to assist the Judge in reaching a decision.
It is important to bear in mind that the Tribunal is a legal proceeding and when bringing appeals you will need to ensure that you have the evidence to support your arguments.
We have the experience of dealing with a range of complex issues, including:
Where we are instructed to represent you we will manage the process for you so you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day management of the appeal. We will prepare all evidence for you and instruct experts to act on your behalf in providing independent advice about your child’s needs and the support they require.