The Children and Families Act has re-emphasised the importance of Mediation and Disagreement Resolution as a means of resolving disputes between parents, young people and local authorities. For the first time, it can also be used as a means to consider disputes against health and social care. We endorse the amicable resolution of disputes through these processes as they are cost effective for parents and help to preserve relationships between parties.

You would use Mediation Services if you are appealing to the SEN Tribunal in connection with a Local Authority’s decision. You would use Disagreement Resolution Services for non-Tribunal related matters. Our Factsheet sets out the circumstances when mediation must be considered and what it involves. We also have a separate Factsheet for using the Disagreement Resolution Services.

Regardless of when Mediation and Disagreement Resolution may be used, we provide advice and support for you to be able to navigate through these processes and can appoint a non-legal advocate to support you and to represent you at the mediation session.

There are a number of advantages of invoking these services as a means of resolving disputes, whether they are connected to a Tribunal or otherwise:

  • The Services are required to be delivered by professional mediators who are independent of the Local Authority and who have expertise in SEN.
  • The Services are free for parents and young people to access and must be set out in the Local Offer. Therefore, there is no cost burden on you for using them and we would encourage their widespread use.
  • If you enter mediation before lodging an SEN Tribunal Appeal, the Local Authority is required to participate and you are given additional time to lodge your appeal. Therefore, this provides an opportunity for you to hear directly the justification for the Local Authority’s position.
  • It is a confidential process and nothing can be shared outside of the mediation process without your agreement.
  • Where mediation is used, reasonable expenses are recoverable from the Local Authority if you decide to participate, including those of the advocate. Expenses are not recoverable for legal representatives to attend or with the Disagreement Resolution process.
  • Agreements can be reached which are binding on all parties and can be enforced through a Mediation Agreement. This is a document which is prepared by the Mediator.