Appeals, Mediation and Complaints
Wherever possible, Peterborough City Council and its health partners will try and resolve issues or areas of disagreement by meeting and talking with those involved in supporting children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
This includes not only parents and carers, but also children and young people themselves. However, we accept that sometimes it isn’t possible to reach a resolution without the help of a third party. This section provides information on seeking formal dispute resolution, including the use of mediation.
Disagreement resolution arrangements cover all children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN), not just those who are being assessed for, or who have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.
Disagreement resolution meetings aim to resolve disagreements in a quick, informal way using a neutral third party, called a mediator, to help reach a resolution that is mutually satisfactory. The service aims to help parents and young people resolve three types of disagreement or to prevent them from escalating further:
- about how the organisation or authority is carrying out their education, health and care duties for children and young people with SEN, whether they have EHC plans or not
- about the special educational provision made for a child or young person, whether they have EHC plans or not
- about health or social care provision during an EHC needs assessments, while EHC plans are being drawn up or reviewed, or when children or young people are being reassessed.
- Telephone: 01733 863979
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Statutory Assessment and Moniting (SAMS) team
- Telephone: 01733 863733 or 863675
- Email: SENteam@peterborough.gov.uk
If parents or young people are unhappy about certain decisions made by the Local Authority, they have a right to appeal. This would include the following areas:
- not carrying out an EHC needs assessment
- not drawing up an EHC plan
- content of a final or amended EHC plan
- not to amend an EHC plan
- stopping an EHC plan
There is also the opportunity for parents or the young person, prior to submitting an appeal, to take part in mediation. The aim of the mediation meeting is to resolve disagreements in an informal way using a neutral third party. Parents or young people must contact the mediation provider must be done within 2 months of the date of the decision letter, and they will explain the following:
- mediation is an informal, accessible and simple disagreement settlement process run by a trained third party and designed to bring two parties together to clarify the issues, and reach a resolution
- the parent or young person’s use of mediation is voluntary
- the timescales which must be met and about the certificate that will be provided
- the local authority will pay for the mediation and also reasonable travel expenses and other expenses to the parent or young person and witnesses taking part in mediation
After this initial discussion, the parents or young person then decide whether to go ahead with mediation before submitting any appeal. The meeting is completely confidential and will not influence or prejudice any future tribunal.
If a mediation meeting is to be set up (this would usually be a face to meeting if possible), various individuals may attend, including the child or young person, an advocate or support that the parents or young person wishes to attend. Generally speaking, legal representation should not be needed, but they can attend with the agreement of the mediator. The mediator must take reasonable steps to take account of the views of the child or young person about the issues. In order to work well:
- the mediation meeting should be arranged in discussion with the parents or young person for a time and place that is convenient, with at least 5 working days notice
- the mediator should clarify the nature of the disagreement and ensure both sides are ready, and agree who needs to be there
- the local authority and health commissioner should be sufficiently senior and have authority to make decisions during the meeting
- both parties should be open and not hold anything back for a possible appeal.
In order to register an appeal, a certificate must be obtained from the mediation provider – this will be issued if the parents or young person have decided not to take part in mediation, or if they have taken part but still remain unhappy. If a certificate is not obtained within the timescale, then the right to appeal may be lost.
Full details of the process, the provider and the timescales will be provided in the letter from the local authority, and we will develop further information leaflets and publish them here in the coming months.
Placement or Disability Discrimination
If it has not been possible to reach an agreement about the education placement, or if it is a disability discrimination claim, you have the right to appeal. You can use the mediation provider to help resolve the disagreement, but you do not have to obtain a mediation certificate in these cases.
Health and/or social care disagreement
If it has not been possible to reach an agreement regarding the health and/or social care aspects of the plan that are not part of the child or young person’s training or education provision, then the parents or young person can seek mediation as a means to resolve disagreement. In these circumstances, the Local Authority will advise the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and they will arrange the mediation within 30 days of being notified. However, if mediation does not resolve the disagreement, then this cannot be appealed to the SEND Tribunal. In these circumstances, it would be through the usual NHS or local authority complaints process.
Details of how to make an appeal to a tribunal will be provided by the local authority at the appropriate points in the process. The appeal has to be submitted within one month from the date the certificate was sent by the mediation provider or 2 months from the date of the local authority letter (whichever is the later date), otherwise the right to appeal may be lost.
A 2-year national trial begins on 3 April 2018 to extend the power of the special educational needs and disability (SEND) tribunal. As part of a special educational appeal, the SEND tribunal will be able to make non-binding recommendations on the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.
This guidance sets out the extended powers and duties in the Special Educational Needs and Disability (First-tier Tribunal Recommendations Power) Regulations 2017.
It explains how the appeal process will work, what happens if recommendations are not followed and the support available for commissioners and families.
Further guidance and support for the trial can be found in the SEND national trial toolkit.
The information above is quite specific to the EHC plan development. If you have a complaint that is more general to the local authority, education or health provider, you should seek to resolve through their normal complaints processes. An example of this might be if you think a mistake has been made, you have been given incorrect or misleading information, a member of staff has demonstrated inappropriate behaviour, or they have failed to act in accordance with the law or the organisation’s own policies.