IPSEA was established as a voluntary organisation in 1983 and registered as a charity in 1988. Originally, we were a small organisation made up of a group of special educational needs (SEN) professionals who would carry out free assessments of children’s SEN.

Over time IPSEA has evolved. We are now the leading organisation providing independent legally based advice and support for the families of children with special educational needs and/or a disability (SEND).

There is no other organisation offering the range of free, independent and legally based support that IPSEA provides.

Our recent history:


We launch our Tribunal Helpline to provide next-step advice in preparing cases for Tribunal. The volunteers on our Tribunal Helpline also assess whether callers need the support of an individual IPSEA volunteer caseworker. 


IPSEA develops a new child-centred database using free open-source software, allowing us to see a child’s progress through the SEN system and enabling us to provide informed and integrated advice for families. The information we collect provides clear evidence of the issues that are faced by children with SEN and provides invaluable, anonymous evidence when we are helping to develop SEN Law or providing input into central Government policy development. 


We launch our IPSEA Facebook page and Twitter account. This prompts a significant increase in visitors to our website. We now have over 20,000 likes and followers. 


We introduce our email-based Information Service. This provides a way for parents to quickly receive specific information on the law that applies to the situation they are facing.

Following the Government’s announcement to bring forward legislation to change the system for assessing and providing for special educational needs in its proposed Children and Families Bill, IPSEA scrutinises the Bill to ensure current legal safeguards for children with special educational needs and disabilities are protected. 


IPSEA produces a detailed analysis of the Children and Families Bill, highlighting areas of concern over the erosion of existing rights. We submit written evidence to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee. Our submission suggests amendments to ensure that the Bill maintains current protections, and we continue to voice our concerns and raise awareness during the passage of the Bill. 


Following recommendations made by the House of Lords, MPs debated and subsequently agreed the amendments to the Children and Families Bill proposed by the Lords which were influenced by IPSEA’s concerns. The implementation of the Children and Families Act on 1st September 2014 makes this an incredibly busy year for IPSEA, and marks the end of a journey that we began back in 2008. IPSEA was involved in the development of the law at every step – we made 12 formal responses, produced ten briefings, appeared as an expert witness five times and ran an extensive survey to capture feedback from families.

We see a surge in demand for our services in anticipation of the introduction of the new Children and Families Act 2014. All of our online legal resources are rewritten, existing volunteers are re-trained on the new framework, and more than 70 new volunteers recruited to increase our capacity.  


As demand grows, we continue to develop our training packages and online training to ensure we reach not only parents and carers, but also school staff, parent forums, support groups, local authorities, and other groups/organisations. 


We launch our bookable call system for both our Advice Line and our Tribunal Helpline. Using web-based software, parents and carers can book to speak to one of our volunteer advisers at a time that suits them (subject to availability). We also move to a new, larger office space to enable us to take on more staff as we continue to expand our work with families of children with SEND. 


IPSEA appoints a new Chief Executive, Ali Fiddy, who has extensive experience in the fields of education, community care, mental health and public law, and has spent many years working as a senior manager in the not-for-profit sector.

We expand our policy team which enables us to respond to more national consultations affecting children and young people with SEND. During this period we are able to write to more local authorities than ever before to address unlawful policy and practice.

Our helpline services win the coveted ‘Best Helpline Sector Contributor’ award. The award recognises the significant contribution that our helplines have made to the wellbeing of service users and to the sector in general, and the judges commented specifically on IPSEA’s remarkable ability to meet the rise in demand for the service, whilst also using the intelligence received on our helplines to shape policy and influence the larger system.