What do I do if have concerns about a child’s welfare?

We’re all responsible for reporting concerns about a child’s welfare. If you have concerns about the safety of a child then please click here for further information about services and people that are there to help.

What do I do if I am not happy with the service provided?

If you are not happy with the service that we have provided to you – about its quality or reliability, about the way that our staff have treated you, about the decisions that have been made then click here for further information.

Are there any timescales that I need to consider?

Yes. You must speak with a mediation adviser within two months of the date of your decision letter otherwise you will not be able to obtain a mediation certificate which you need to be able to lodge an appeal with the tribunal service.

Who can contact Essential Mediation?

Anyone can contact us to enquire about our services, however we can only talk to parents with regards to special educational needs disputes if their local authority/health commissioning service has a subscription with us.

Does your local authority/health commissioner have a subscription with Essential Mediation?

Click here to see the list of subscribing local authorities.

What if we do not reach a resolution?

If unfortunately an agreement is not reached, the parties may decide to have another day, or to continue negotiations on their own, or to return to the litigation. The mediator may occasionally close the mediation if it seems that there is no realistic likelihood of settlement. Even if no agreement is reached, it is often the case that the parties settle shortly afterwards anyway.

What will happen on the day?

Each party has a private room allocated to them for the duration of the mediation. There will also be a separate ‘joint session’ room. The mediator will greet the parties at the beginning of the mediation day, ensure they are settled.

The day will normally begin with an individual meeting between the mediator and each party when the Mediation Agreement is signed and the format of the day is discussed. Normally this is followed by a joint meeting at which time each party sets out their views on the dispute and the mediator can confirm the ground rules and establish an agreed way of working forward. However there is no requirement for this if one party does not want to or feel able to face the other person at the beginning of the mediation day.

The mediator will then either continue joint discussions, or most probably will ask the parties to return to their own rooms. The mediator will then meet with each party in turn, inviting the parties back for joint sessions from time to time.

There will potentially be joint and individual sessions at any time during the mediation day. During joint sessions all parties will be present in the same room. Following an individual sessions it is important to note that only information that has been specifically agreed with the mediator can be disclosed to the other party.

Throughout the course of the day, the amount and type of meetings will vary according to the needs of the parties and the organisation which the mediator believes will be most effective. The mediation will continue until either resolution has been reached, or the parties agree to take a break and resume on another occasion, or one party chooses to abandon the mediation process.

Assuming that an agreement is reached between the parties, the mediator will assist in recording that agreement in a suitable form. This may be a document which simply records the agreement reached in plain language or may be a more complex document which includes a commitment to enter into a legally binding agreement or obtain an agreed court order.

How is confidentiality ensured?

Each party has a private room that will be theirs for the duration of the mediation. The mediator will visit the party in that room and everything discussed in that room stays in that room unless the mediator is authorised to disclose it to the other party. All discussion’s prior to the mediation are treated with equal confidentiality.

There will be a separate room where the parties and the mediator meet for a joint session. It is part of the Mediation Agreement that everything discussed during the course of the mediation is private to the parties, their advisors and to the mediator. So anything discussed in the joint session room also stays within that room.

If I do not want to employ a lawyer will the mediator help me in the negotiation?

The mediator is impartial. The mediator will not favour one party over another, and will not give legal or other advice to any party. The mediator may have private views about matters that arise, but will not attempt to advise or influence any party. We recommend that if one party is going to be legally represented on the mediation day that the other party seeks legal representation, or at the very least have taken legal advice in advance and are able to contact a lawyer during the mediation.

How does the mediator decide who is right or who wins?

It is not the role of the mediator to make decisions of this sort. The parties reach their own solution guided by the skills of the mediator. As participants it is down to you to concentrate on persuading each other of the relative merits of their cases, not the mediator. Essentially it does not matter what the mediator thinks, it matters only what each party has realised about their own and the other parties’ cases, and then what they choose to agree.

Where does the mediation take place?

In a room or rooms agreeable to the parties. This is usually at a quiet, neutral venue which maybe sourced by Essential Mediation or your local authority. This will be agreed with parties at the appropriate time and confirmation of the date, time and place will be sent to you at least five days prior to the meeting.

How long does the process take?

All cases are different so it is difficult to accurately answer this question, however we would advise you to allow at least four hours unless otherwise instructed. Sometimes what looks like a difficult dispute may be resolved relatively quickly, and other cases may take longer than expected to reach an outcome.

Can I bring another person along to support me?

We would hope, following initial contact with your mediator, that you would not feel that this is necessary. However, a supporter may attend if you prefer, although this person may not necessarily be allowed to contribute on your behalf as mediation encourages you to be in control of the process.

Do I have to meet the other party face to face?

No, only if you agree to. If not, a ‘shuttle’ mediation can take place where the mediator(s) convey messages between the parties. However mediation does have ground rules which are designed to ensure a safe and non-intimidating environment for joint meetings, the mediator will ensure that all parties adhere to these.

What if I decide not to engage with mediation?

You are quite with in you right to make this decision, however the situation you are in will remain unchanged unless you seek other ways of resolving the dispute such as arbitration, unions, tribunals and the courts. In these alternatives the solution may well be imposed on you rather than you being part of the process of agreeing suitable outcomes for you.

Nevertheless, if you decide that mediation is not for you we will issue you with a Mediation Certificate within three working days of you providing us with this information so that you are able to lodge an appeal with the tribunal if you decide too.

If I go to mediation or disagreement resolution will this affect my legal rights?

No it will not. Mediation and disagreement resolution can be helpful to reduce the number of issues in dispute even where no solution is reached. Parties remain in control of what is revealed to others throughout the process and the whole process is confidential and conducted on a ‘without prejudice’ basis.

However, you will need to have a Mediation Certificate from the service used, as you cannot lodge an appeal with the First-Tier Tribunal service without one.

Is mediation a waste of time if parties are too entrenched and the trust has been broken?

Mediation is usually the first time parties have had an opportunity to really listen and be heard in the safe environment of a neutral third party. Parties who appear to be inflexible outside mediation are often putting their best case forward and refusing to accept other options. These are precisely the kind of cases where negotiation cannot proceed further without the intervention of a mediator to help break the impasse. 

Why go to mediation or disagreement resolution when we have already tried to resolve the dispute and failed?

The key component of mediation/disagreement resolution is the introduction of an independent neutral third party which has usually not been tried. The mediator uses techniques to facilitate communication, problem solving and negotiation between the parties in a safe and constructive environment, and deploys them from a position of independence and neutrality making progress possible. 

Can I claim expenses?

The local authority will pay reasonable expenses to parents and young people who attend a mediation session. For example, public transport costs, petrol/diesel costs, child care costs. However, there are limits to what you can claim and you must be able to provide evidence of your expenditure.

If you would like to claim expenses then please let your allocated mediator know as soon as possible and they will advise you on your local authorities’ processes and procedures.

Do I have to go to mediation?

No. Mediation is a totally voluntary process even if you are told otherwise. Although, from the 1st September 2014 you must prove to the First-Tier Tribunal service that you have considered mediation before you can lodge an appeal with them by sending them a Mediation Certificate.

How do I know which service I need?

Contact the SEN Advice Line on 01908 082 422 or email advice@sen4you.co.uk and you will be able to speak with a qualified mediator who will be able help you with your query if your local authority subscribes to the service.

What is the difference between mediation and disagreement resolution services?

Under the Children and Families Act 2014 the requirement for disagreement resolution and mediation services have been enhanced. While disagreement resolution and mediation are in effect one and the same thing, the Government has made a distinction between these services as follows:

Disagreement resolution services are for parents of children and/or young people with SEN. They are designed to resolve disagreements about any aspect of SEN provision and health and social care disagreements, whether they have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan or not.

Whereas mediation services apply specifically to parents and young people who are considering appealing to the tribunal about an EHC assessment and special educational needs element of an EHC plan or who want mediation on the health and social care elements of an EHC plan.

If you are still unsure about the service you require then contact the SEN Advice Line on 01908 082 422 or email advice@sen4you.co.uk and you will be able to speak with a qualified mediator who will be able help you with your query if your local authority subscribes to the service