Sometimes families of children and young people with SEND have questions, problems or complaints about the decisions made about their education and training. The ideal aim is to be able to resolve these through discussion between the relevant parties, through informal independent mediation processes, or by independent disagreement resolution.
Education providers have their own compliment and complaints procedures, as do Somerset Council and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group for their services. Complaints received by schools are managed by the headteacher and governors, and any concerns must be raised with the school in the first instance. If your concern cannot be resolved by talking with the school, then mediation can help.
Mediation is a voluntary process which parents and young people can use if agreement cannot be reached about EHC plans. It helps people communicate with each other better, and it can help re-build relationships that have broken down because of a disagreement. Although mediation is voluntary, the local authority will always favour the opportunity to see if a mediation or Way Forward meeting can help resolve issues. This can be quicker than lodging an appeal.
Mediation is free and completely confidential. Find out more here.
Disagreement resolution services
Parents, carers or young people can choose to use a disagreement resolution service. This is voluntary and everyone involved must agree to it. Disagreement resolution services are free, confidential and independent of the local authority.
The service helps children and young people with SEN resolve the following types of disagreement or prevents them escalating:
- How the early years setting, school, college or local authority is carrying out its education, health and care duties for children and young people with special educational needs. This can include any of the SEN duties – not just those around EHC needs assessments or EHC plans.
- The provision that the early years setting, school, or college is making. This applies to children and young people with any kind of SEND, not just those going through an EHC needs assessment or with an EHC plan.
- The health or social care provision during an EHC needs assessment, while EHC plans are being drawn up or reviewed, or while waiting for an appeal, or when children or young people are being reassessed. In these cases, the disagreement will be with the local authority or Clinical Commissioning Group, rather than the early years setting, school, or college.
As a parent or young person, do I have to consider mediation?
Before you can register an appeal with the Tribunal, you must contact a mediation adviser within two months of the local authority decision you wish to appeal and consider whether mediation might be a way to resolve your disagreement with the local authority. If you want to appeal only about the school or other institution named in the EHC plan you do not have to contact a mediation adviser.
You can go to mediation about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan, but this is not compulsory. You can request recommendations about health and social care issues without having to receive mediation advice or attend mediation about those issues, provided there is also an education issue you are appealing about.
Once a mediation adviser has been contacted, or once you have taken part in mediation, you will be issued with a certificate. This will be necessary if you are still unhappy and wish to progress to an appeal with the Tribunal. An appeal to the Tribunal must usually be made within two months of the decision the appeal is being made about or one month following the issuing of the mediation certificate, whichever is the later.
If mediation resolves the educational issues, you will not be able to appeal to the Tribunal on any health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan. However, mediation provides an opportunity for us to resolve disagreements and it can be completed more quickly than an appeal. It does not affect your right to make an educational appeal, and some aspects of the disagreement can go to appeal even when other aspects are resolved.
Who to contact about Mediation or Disagreement Resolution
To discuss or request independent disagreement resolution please phone Global mediation on 0208 4411355 or email email@example.com