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Tribunals – single route of redress

If you are unhappy with a decision, you can make an appeal.

The Government is extending the powers of the First-tier Tribunal (SEND), sometimes referred to as the ‘SEND Tribunal’, to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans as part of a two-year trial. The trial will apply to decisions made or EHC plans issued or amended from 3 April 2018. 

Up to now, you have only been able to appeal the educational aspects of EHC plans. The trial gives you new rights to request recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision specified in EHC plans, in addition to the educational aspects, when making a SEND appeal. This gives you the opportunity to raise all your concerns about an EHC plan in one place.

It is only possible for the Tribunal to consider the health and social care aspects of the EHC plan where you are already making an appeal in relation to the education aspects of the EHC plan and the education aspect must remain live throughout the appeal.

If you are unhappy with a decision not to issue an EHC plan, or with the special educational content or placement in the plan, you can make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal. This trial now gives you the opportunity to also request recommendations about the health and social care content of the plan at the same time. This will mean the Tribunal will take a more holistic, person-centred view of the needs of the child or young person. 

This does not prevent you also complaining about other aspects of your disagreement through other complaint procedures. You should seek advice about the different routes available, including from your local Information Advice and Support Service (IASS).

If the SEND Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of an EHC plan, this is non-binding. The local authority and health commissioner is generally expected to follow such recommendations, but they are not legally binding. Where they are not followed, the reasons for not following them must be explained and set-out in writing to you and to the Department for Education through the evaluators. If they are not followed, you can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) or seek to have the decision judicially reviewed. Further information on the roles of these bodies can be found on their websites.

When can a parent or young person request recommendations about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan?
You can request the Tribunal makes recommendations about the health and social care aspects of EHC plans as part of an appeal relating to:

  • The description of the child or young person’s special educational needs in an EHC plan
  • The special educational provision specified in an EHC plan
  • The school or other educational institution named in an EHC plan
  • A decision by the local authority not to issue an EHC plan
  • A decision by the local authority not to carry out a re-assessment for a child/young person who has an EHC plan
  • A decision by the local authority not to amend an EHC plan following a review or re-assessment
  • A decision by the local authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan

The Trial places responsibility on local authority SEND teams to:

  1. Inform parents and young people of their new rights through decision letters and the local offer
  2. Provide evidence to the Tribunal from the health and social care bodies in response to any issues raised within the timeframe set by the Tribunal, seeking permission to bring additional witnesses to the hearing as necessary
  3. If a recommendation has been made, send the health and social care response letters to the evaluators at SENDletters@IFFResearch.com.

It also places responsibility on health and social care commissioners to:

  1. Respond to any request for information and evidence within the timeframe set by the Tribunal
  2. Send a witness to attend the hearing as required
  3. Respond to the parent/young person and the local authority SEND team within 5 weeks of a recommendation being made, setting out the steps they have decided to take or giving reasons why they are not going to follow the recommendation.
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