What to do if I don't agree with a decision
Most children with SEN will have their needs met by schools and local authorities. If things go wrong, it is possible to use informal and formal complaints procedures to improve the situation.
This information is about what you can do if your child has special educational needs (SEN) and/or a disability and you are unhappy about the help they are getting. The Bedford Borough Parent Carers Forum have collated the most frequently asked questions that parents ask when a dispute arises.
You can access the SEND Code of Practice online at www.gov.uk and search ‘SEND Code of Practice’.
Contact the School
If you are not happy about the help that your child has at school the first step is to talk to their teacher, or to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or the headteacher.
The first thing to do if you are not happy is to speak to your child’s class teacher and or SENCO. If you are still not happy, you should talk to the head teacher.
If you cannot resolve the problem informally, ask for a copy of the school’s complaints procedure. Legally, all schools should have one.
You will usually need to:
• have tried to resolve your complaint by speaking to the right people
• put your complaint in writing, using the word ‘complaint’
• be clear about all the issues you want resolved
• state what you want to happen
• give a reasonable time by which you would like a response
Contact the Schools Governing Body
Every school has a governing body, academies have the academy trust. School complaint procedures usually end with complaining to the governing body of the school. A complaint to the governing body should be addressed to the chair of governors/ head of the academy trust. If the school is a community or voluntary controlled school, (local authority maintained) you could also send a copy of your letter to the director in charge of local education services.
The governing body is likely to pass your complaint to a panel of governors. You may be invited to a meeting to discuss your case in more detail. If the governing body does not give you a satisfactory response, you then have a number of options. It is important that you follow the school’s and, if applicable, the local authority’s complaints procedures first.
Contact the Local Authority
The Local Authority is always willing to discuss any issues or concerns you may have at any point in the EHCP planning process.
Your first point of contact if you are not in agreement with the support you receive is to contact your named SEND Officer or the SEND Team Manager.
For more information about the SEND Team click here
If you are not satisfied with the response from the SEND Team you can follow Bedford Borough’s Complaints procedure
However, we accept that sometimes it isn’t possible to reach a resolution without the help of a third party. If agreement still can't be reached, the following services may be of assistance: SENDIASS; Dispute Resolution; Mediation
Bedford Borough Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Services (SENDIASS) provide a free, impartial and confidential service to parents and carers of children who have special educational needs and or a disability (SEND). They also offer support to young people with SEN or a disability to help them access the best possible education. Bedford SENDIASS Service aims to encourage partnership between parents, carers and young people with those responsible for their education and training.
For more information about the SENDIASS click here
Disagreement Resolution Service
Under the Education Act and the new Special Educational Needs and Disability Act Code of Practice- 0-25 years, local authorities must make a Disagreement Resolution service available to parents and young people.
Disagreement Resolution can be used at any time and it can be an early opportunity to raise concerns about support whether or not there is an EHC Plan in place, such as:-
How education, health and care duties are being carried out by a school or local authority, whether there is an EHC Plan or not.
What special educational support has been provided for a young person, whether they have an EHC Plan or not.
How the EHC Assessment ‘process’ or the ‘drafting’ of an EHC Plan is been conducted, before any decisions have been made.
The Local Authority must make provision for an independent mediation and disagreement resolution service that will provide a trained mediator to facilitate a discussion. The purpose is to look for a way forward that all the parties accept. The service is free and confidential – and you can choose whether or not to use it.
Disagreement resolution services can also be used: • during EHC needs assessments • while EHC plans are drawn up • while waiting for Tribunal appeals • at review • during reassessments.
The Disagreement Resolution Service is provided by KIDS
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a type of disagreement resolution. The service is free and confidential.
Mediation is a voluntary process for parents and young people, which can be used if agreement cannot be reached about matters related to EHC plans. It is provided by a trained and accredited mediator who is independent of the local authority and Integrated Care Board (ICB). Mediation is a more informal way of trying to settle the dispute between a parent or young person and the local authority and/or ICB compared to an appeal. An independent mediator will join you and the LA and/or ICB, and their role is to help the parties reach agreement on the points of dispute.
You have a right to try mediation whenever the LA makes a decision which you could appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
Mediation Services can be accessed where a decision has been made by a Local Authority:
- not to carry out an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment
- not to draw up an EHC Plan
- not to amend an EHC Plan
- to cease to maintain an EHC Plan
For more information about meidation refer to the frequently asked questions by clicking Frequently Asked Questions - Mediation | Bedford Local Offer
What is a Way Forward Meeting?
Should an EHCP assessment not be agreed by the Local Authority, a Way Forward meeting will be offered to families to allow for a discussion around the next steps of support for a child/young person.
This meeting will be chaired by a SEND Officer and will be attended by the school/setting the young person attend, relevant practitioners who are directly involved or practitioners who may be able to offer further guidance or support on how to best meet a young person’s needs at SEND Support.
A Way Forward meeting is a space for parents and carers to raise any ongoing or future concerns relating to a young person’s provision, and allow for a clear plan and agreed actions on how best to provide support where an EHCP is not required.
A Way Forward meeting does not limit a parents ability to request mediation and to submit an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal, these processes are able to run simultaneously.
If you are not in agreement with a decision that the Local Authority has made in relation to your (or your child’s) SEND, you can appeal against it to the First -tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability).
Appealing a local authority decision is a different course of action to making a complaint to the local authority. You can only appeal in certain situations, so it is important to be aware of the appropriate course of action for the situation you’re in
The First-Tier Tribunal is part of a system of courts which will make a decision on appeals or claims regarding a child’s or young person’s Special educational needs or disability.
For more information on Tribunals go to Frequently Asked Questions - Tribunals | Bedford Local Offer
Complaining to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (“LGSCO”) is independent and deals with claims of ‘maladministration leading to injustice’. This provides an avenue to challenge a local authority’s (“LA’s”) decision without having to go to court.
To raise a complaint to the LGSCO parents must usually have been through all stages of Bedford Borough's complaints procedure first. The LGSCO can say it will not look into the complaint if a parent has not completed the LA’s complaints process when they should have done.
The LGSCO will assess every complaint it receives. There must be a clear and direct link between the injustice the person is asking the LGSCO to remedy and the alleged fault on the part of the LA. A remedy cannot be provided where there is fault, but no injustice.
The LGSCO aims to assess all complaints within 28 calendar days. After the initial assessment they will decide whether or not to do a full investigation of the complaint. The LGSCO aims to complete all investigations within 26 weeks, although complex cases may take longer. After the investigation they will issue a decision, and can make recommendations to local authorities to put right the injustice. These are only ‘recommendations’ – meaning they are not binding on the local authority in the same way that, for example, a court judgment would be – but it is very rare for a local authority to ignore a recommendation.
‘Judicial review’ is asking a court to look at the decision of a public body and to decide whether it was made in a lawful, fair and reasonable manner. The court does not look at whether it agrees with the public body’s decision, but looks at the way the decision was taken. If it finds that the way the decision was taken was unlawful, unfair or unreasonable, it can order the public body to re-make its decision, or order the public body to take a particular action.
A judicial review claim may be necessary where there is no other way the complaint could be resolved.