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Whenever a Local Authority makes a decision, it opens up avenues for parent carers to challenge it.
Any decision a Local Authority makes pertaining to your Childs EHC Plan, must be communicated to you in writing. In most cases, this will follow an annual review, or a formal request for a change, made by you, for example, to go to a special school. You can also appeal a decision not to carry out an EHC assessment or not to issue a plan following an assessment. The letter the LA sends you outlining their decision is your appeal tool.
When you receive the letter, you have in most cases, two options available to you; mediation, and Tribunal. For cases relating only to Section I queries (school place), mediation is not available, and you proceed straight to Tribunal.
Mediation is free for parents, and is delivered in Bolton by Together Trust. More information on their mediation service can be found here, along with their contact details. If you want to proceed with mediation you should contact the send team (details on the decision letter) to say you want to lodge for mediation. This must be within two months of receiving the LA decision. The LA pay for it so it is useful to them to know you want it. They can’t stop you from going to mediation but they may offer you an informal ‘pre mediation’ meeting with them to chat through your issues. It’s entirely up to you whether you do this- although it may be really useful.
Once mediation has been requested, the meeting must be held within 30 days. At this meeting, you, the mediator and the LA rep will discuss the reasons for the LA decision, and your reasons for opposing it. You can ask for other people to attend too, such as school, but they can’t be made to attend. The meeting lasts approx 2 hours. It might be that as a result of these conversations, the LA decide to overturn their original decision and agree with you. Or, it might be they uphold their decision. If mediation isn't successful, you can still go to Tribunal. You will get a mediation certificate to send to Tribunal. All agreements at mediation are non legally binding, however if the LA agree to something and then don’t do it, Tribunal wouldn’t look at this fondly at all.
If you want to go straight to Tribunal, unless it’s about section I, you must still contact mediation to get a certificate.
In order to register with Tribunal, you must do so within 2 months of the LA decision letter, or within one month of attending mediation/ receiving your mediation certificate.
You will need to fill out various forms and send in supporting evidence to the SEND Tribunal. Remember to keep copies of all of your paperwork (letters, reports etc.), so you have a clear record of everything you’ve sent.
For more information on what to send with your appeal form see IPSEA's website here.
You can submit your appeal either by email or by post. If you send it by post, we recommend that you send it by recorded delivery.
You will need to fill in an appeal form, which you can obtain from the SEND Tribunal’s website. Make sure you are using the right form depending on whether the appeal or claim concerns a child or a young person. We strongly recommend you read the booklet about ‘How to appeal’ which is also available on the site (SEND37 - at the end of the leaflet section).
If you are also bringing a claim about disability discrimination, there will be a separate form for each claim. The two claims can later be consolidated so that they are both dealt with at the same hearing.
In the boxes on the appeal form, fill in:
In the appropriate section of the form, you will need to explain which decision you’re appealing against or which parts of the EHC plan you disagree with. This is called your reasons for appeal. It is often easier to put these on a separate sheet and write ‘See separate sheet headed Reasons for Appeal’ in the box on the form.
This is where you set out why you think the LA’s decision is wrong, or why the contents of the EHC plan need to change. Try to put in everything you need to say, your full case, at this point.
Try and submit as much evidence as you can at this point too. In your reasons for appeal, you should refer to this evidence to support your arguments (for example, if you are saying that your child has not made progress despite the support they currently receive, refer to school reports and/or annual review records which show this). Don’t worry if you don’t have everything ready to send straight away; you can submit more evidence after you’ve registered your appeal.
You must send in enough information for the LA to be able to respond.
With the completed and signed form send the SEND Tribunal the following:
Don’t send original documents, send photocopies or scans. Keep a copy of everything you send, including the form.
Once the Tribunal has received your completed appeal, they will write to you with more information and timescales as to when things need to be done by. Again, IPSEA have some detailed advice on what to expect in your bundle and the correct way to respond. However, we would advise that if you need support at this stage, to get in touch with us right away on firstname.lastname@example.org.
IAS offer support with all aspects of mediation and Tribunal matters, including support in person at hearings if parents and carers meet the criteria. We can offer you an appointment to help you with you paperwork, usually within 5 working days.
(information on this page has been adopted from IPSEAS guidance on SENDIST processes)