Raise a concern about an Education, Health and Care plan
What to do if you don't agree with the decision
Although we work with parents, carers, young people and schools to prevent disagreements, there may be times when you are unhappy with the decision made about the Education, Health and Care Plan. There are a number of things that you can do if you disagree with a decision:
Arrange a meeting with us
If you let us know that you disagree with the decision that has been made, you will normally be invited to a meeting to try to resolve the disagreement. You can bring someone to support you at any meetings. This person could be a relative or friend, a supporter from a voluntary organisation such as Barnardos or someone from a parents' support group. If you can't find someone yourself, we can help you to find an Independent Supporter.
We also use Independent Disagreement Resolution (IDR) to help resolve disagreements in a quick and non-confrontational way.
If you have attended a meeting with us and are still unhappy, you can ask for a mediation meeting. Mediation meetings can be held to try to resolve disagreements about education, health and/or social care parts of the EHC plan.
Mediation is where a trained person, independent of us, talks to the people involved in a disagreement to try to help them agree or find a solution to the problem through discussion and negotiation.
Mediation is voluntary and you do not have to choose this option but the mediation meetings are free to parents/carers and young people. Please contact us if you would like further information about mediation.
Appeal to the first-tier tribunal
If you are unhappy with our decision following the meeting, and your disagreement is about the education part of the EHC plan, you can appeal to the tribunal. The tribunal is an independent body that hears appeals about our decisions following a request for an education, health and care. The appeal will be heard by a panel that is made up of a tribunal judge and two specialist members who have experience and expertise in this area. The tribunal can only hear appeals about the education elements of the EHC plan.
Appeals can be made to the tribunal by parents, carers and young people who are over 16 but, before you contact the tribunal, you must contact a mediation adviser in most cases before you can lodge an appeal. The only time you do not have to contact a mediation adviser is if your appeal is only about:
- the name of the school or type of school named in the EHC plan or,
- we haven't named a school in the EHC plan.
The mediation adviser will let you know what happens in mediation and discuss whether you want to try to resolve the disagreement this way. You do not have to agree to take part in a mediation meeting but before you can appeal to the tribunal you must get a certificate from a mediation adviser to confirm that they've discussed the option of mediation with you.
Appeals to the tribunal
Appeals can be made to the tribunal if we:
- will not carry out an education, health and care needs assessment following a request by the parent/carer/young person or education provider;
- refuse to issue an EHC plan after carrying out an education, health and care needs assessment.
If the we have issued or amended an EHC plan, parents/carers and young people can appeal if they disagree with:
- the description of special educational needs;
- the special educational provision (help they receive) in the EHC plan;
- the name of the school or type of school named in the EHC plan or,
- we haven't named a school.
Appeals can also be made if we:
- decide not to amend the EHC plan following an annual review or a re-assessment:
- decide not to maintain the EHC plan (for example decides to cancel the plan);
The following conditions apply to appeals:
- parents, carers and young people can appeal when an EHC plan is finalised, amended or when a replacement an EHC plan is issued.
- appeals must be made within two months of receiving our decision letter or within one month of receiving a mediation certificate whichever is later.
- appeals against refusal to assess can only be made if we haven't made a new EHC plan during the last six months.
- if the appeal is against us ceasing an EHC plan, we have to continue to maintain the EHC plan until the tribunal has made its decision.
More information about tribunals can be found on the Gov.UK website
Single route of redress
Find out more about the single route of redress trial to extend the powers of the first-tier tribunal (SEND) to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of EHC plans as part of a special educational appeal.
The trial applies to our decisions made and EHC plans issued/amended from 3 April 2018 and will run for two years.
Report concerns about a child
If you are worried about a child's safety or welfare in Gateshead you should talk to someone immediately. You can call the council in confidence on 0191 433 2410 (office hours) and 0191 433 0844 (out of hours). In an emergency phone the police 999. Children and young people with safety concerns can call Childline on 0800 1111 (free from landlines, charge from some mobile networks).
Concerns about academies, independent schools or post 16 institutions
We don't handle complaints against academies, independent schools, or post 16 institutions.
If you feel your child is not getting the right level of support at their educational placement or you feel you are not being fully involved or kept up to date with your child's progress you should talk to your child's class teacher or the school's Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) to discuss any concerns.
If you are still not happy, you should follow the organisation's complaints procedure. You'll be able to find this their website or request it from them direct.
If you cannot resolve your complaint by contacting the nursery, school or college direct, you can contact us for further advice and next steps.
Advice and support
If you need help to talk to the school, you can contact Gateshead's SEND Information, Advice and Support Service which offers free impartial advice for both parents of children with SEN and for young people. In Gateshead this service is run by Barnardos and they can:
- explain about SEN procedures and processes;
- help with paperwork and compiling evidence;
- help you express your views;
- put you in touch with Independent Parental Supporters;
- put you in touch with other organisations/support groups that can help you and your child.
The SEND Information and Advice Service at Barnardos can be contacted on 0191 478 4667 or email DIASS@barnardos.org.uk
- a guidance document on the national trial is published as part of a toolkit of support
- Barnardo's - Gateshead's SEND Information, Advice and Support Service at Barnardo's
- the evaluation of the trial is led by IFF Research working with Belmana. For any questions or to get involved please get in touch with them at SENDtrial@IFFResearch.com, free phone 0800 035 6051.
- a guide has been produced to help young people with special educational needs find advice and information if they are unhappy about the support they are getting for their SEN or disability: Complaints guide for young people with SEND
Other ways to complain
There are a number of other organisations that you can contact if you are unhappy with other parts of the EHC plan. Find out about organisations that can help with a disagreement.
Details of local, regional and national independent organisations can also be found in 'Independent Information Advice and Support' in the Local Offer section of the Family Information Directory.