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.

Where there is a dispute and this cannot be resolved through mediation, parents and the young person (16+) have the right to appeal the decision to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). This is a specialist and independent Tribunal which sits within HM Court Service and is tasked with deciding disputes in this area.

Although the SENDIST process is more informal than an ordinary court and is inquisitorial in nature, over the years it has become more legalistic and more and more parties are becoming legally represented and a knowledge of the law is critical in being able to support your arguments.

Whether you choose to be legally represented or not depends on the complexity of the issues 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?

What To Expect From A SEN Tribunal

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.

How We Can Help

We have the experience of dealing with a range of complex issues, including:

  • Requesting an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment.
  • Providing advice on the contents of EHC Plans and what type of support needs to be included.
  • Advice where the Local Authority refuses to issue an EHC Plan and instead issues non-binding "feedback".
  • Refusal to amend an EHC Plan following an annual review.
  • Appeals against the contents of the EHC Plan, which will include the description of the child's SEN, the provision provided to meet the needs and the educational setting identified.
  • Entitlement to a personal budget and what this means in practice
  • Challenging the non-provision or delivery of health and social care advice. Cessation of the EHC Plan.
  • Refusing to change the name of the educational setting named in the EHC Plan The capacity of a young person to make decisions about their education.
  • Requests for home educational provision and home programmes combined with part time school attendance.
  • Assisting complaints against the Local Government Ombudsman where there has been a failure to make SEN provisions

What we will do for you

Our legal team has a wealth of knowledge to deal with all areas of SEND legislation, regardless of its complexity. 

When we are instructed we manage the entire process for you so you don't have to worry about the day-to-day management of the appeal. We will prepare all the necessary evidence to support your appeal and we will instruct independent experts to provide advice about your child's needs and the support they require. We are then able to represent you should the appeal not be resolved with the local authority. 

What to expect

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, albeit more informal, and when bringing appeals you will need to ensure that you have the evidence to support your arguments.

How we can help

We have the experience of dealing with a range of issues and complex appeals including:

  • Refusal to asses or re-assess a child’s special educational needs.
  • Refusal to issue an EHC Plan following an EHC Needs Assessment.
  • Refusal to amend an EHC Plan following an annual review.
  • Appeals against the contents of the EHC Plan, which will include the description of the child’s SEN, the provision provided to meet the needs and the educational setting identified.
  • Cessation of the EHC Plan.
  • Refusing to change the name of the educational setting named in the EHC Plan.

What will all this cost me?

We can assist you in gathering all of the evidence that you will require to bring an appeal. The costs of an appeal will vary depending on the complexity but the costs of representation and obtaining professional evidence can cost from £10,000 - £20,000.

Unfortunately, costs are not recoverable from the “losing” party unless they have been shown to have acted unreasonably in responding to the appeal. Therefore, pursuing an appeal is an expensive financial commitment. On the flip slide, parents who engage legal representation will do so because they may be securing expensive provision for their child.

We can provide you with an initial estimate of costs when you contact us so that you can decide whether legal support is affordable. We are able to reduce our fees by offering fixed fees and low hourly rates.

What we will do for you

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.

Please see our leaflet on the SEN Tribunal process for detailed information about how we will support you