A SEND tribunal is a first-tier tribunal that hears appeals against decisions made by a local authority relating to the special educational needs of children and young people. This article answers some of the most common questions we get asked here at Setfords about Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) tribunals.
What decisions can I appeal to the tribunal?
The decisions that can be appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal are:
- A decision by a local authority not to carry out an Education, Health and Care (‘EHC’) needs assessment.
- A decision by a local authority not to issue an EHC Plan following an EHC needs assessment.
- The content of an EHC Plan regarding special educational needs (section B), special educational provision (section F) and placement (section I).
- A decision by a local authority not to make amendments to an EHC Plan following an annual review.
- A decision by a local authority to cease to maintain an EHC Plan.
- A decision by a local authority not to re-assess a child or young person’s EHC needs.
- A decision by a local authority not to amend the EHC Plan following EHC needs re-assessment.
Is there a time limit for appeal?
Yes. An appeal to the tribunal must be brought within two months of the local authority’s decision, or within one month of the date of the mediation certificate, whichever is the latter.
Do I have to go to a mediation meeting before I can appeal?
No. Currently, there is no requirement to attend a mediation meeting before making an appeal to the tribunal. However, a mediation certificate is required for all appeals, except an appeal against placement only (section I). Therefore, you must contact a mediation provider to obtain a mediation certificate, even if you do not want to participate in mediation. The tribunal will need the certificate to register your appeal.
Can the tribunal deal with health and social care matters?
Yes. In all appeals (except those against a local authority’s decision not to carry out an EHC needs assessment), the tribunal can make non-binding recommendations regarding health and social care needs and provisions. Appeals that address health and social care, as well as education, are known as ‘extended appeals’ (formerly National Trial appeals). Appeals cannot be brought against only health and/or social care matters; all appeals must include an education element.
Can I recover my costs if I am successful?
Normally, no. The usual position in tribunal appeals is that each party is responsible for its costs. The tribunal can depart from the standard position where a party or its representative is determined to have acted unreasonably in bringing, defending or manipulating proceedings. However, most appeals will not result in an order for costs.
What can I do if I disagree with the tribunal’s decision?
If you disagree with the decision of the tribunal, it can be challenged in certain circumstances. If you think the decision contains an error of law, you can request to appeal the decision. If circumstances have changed since the decision, you can request the tribunal to amend it. If you think there was something wrong with the procedure of the appeal, then you can request the tribunal to ‘set aside’ all or part of its decision. You must make any application to appeal, amend or review a decision with clear reasons, and within 28 days of receiving the decision.
Do I need a solicitor to appeal to the tribunal?
No. Although many local authorities do have legal representation, there is no requirement to be legally represented in an appeal. If you start the appeal without legal representation and then later instruct a solicitor to represent you, they can notify the tribunal and local authority of their involvement.
How can Setfords help me?
Our solicitors are experienced in conducting appeals in the tribunal. They can support you through the entire appeal process, from lodging the appeal to advising on the final decision and any grounds of challenge. They can also offer support with specific parts of the appeal, such as drafting the grounds of appeal or making amendments to an EHC Plan through the ‘working document’ process. Our solicitors can provide a tailored service to suit your requirements and budget, maximising the benefit to you.