Following a pilot recently undertaken in 17 local authority (LA) areas, the government has announced a national trial which will expand the powers of the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) to enable it to make non-binding recommendations on the health and social care aspects of EHC plans alongside the educational aspects.
IPSEA welcomes the national trial, which will begin in March 2018 and run for two years, and sees this as a positive step towards achieving a more joined-up approach to working across education, health and social care. Senior SEND, health and social care commissioners will be invited to attend regional training events taking place in January and February 2018 to enable them to clarify duties and find out further detail ahead of the trial launch.
Whilst we support the single route of redress, our concern remains that the Tribunal's recommendations for health and social care partners will be non-binding. Although we would generally hope that recommendations made by the Tribunal are followed, should this not be the case, families will be required to complain to an Ombudsman or, in exceptional circumstances, make an application for judicial review. This places an additional and unnecessary burden on families of children with SEND.
In preparation for the trial, IPSEA would like to see clearer guidance for parents on how they should proceed when Tribunal recommendations on the health and social care aspects of EHC plans are not acted upon, alongside further clarification about how health and social care issues will be addressed if the educational aspects of an appeal are resolved.
We hope that the single route of redress enables the Tribunal to take a more holistic approach to children and young people’s needs, and that this in turn will have a beneficial impact on the children with SEND and their families.
Read the trial announcement from Robert Goodwill MP, Minister of State for Children and Families, here.
Our Tribunal Helpline Gives next step advice on SEN appeals and disability discrimination claims to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. When you call we will also assess whether you need casework support. Please click here to book an appointment to get one of our advisers to call you back.