The Government has announced that the extended powers given to the SEND Tribunal to hear appeals and make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care elements of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans will continue when the trial of the extended powers ends on 31 August 2021. 

The extended powers have been tested under a national trial since April 2018, and have been independently evaluated. The evaluation report states that families are exercising their rights to bring health and social care issues to the Tribunal in greater numbers than expected. Since the trial began, there have been 2,561 appeals – six times the number the Department for Education originally anticipated. 

Although the Tribunal can only make recommendations on health and social care provision, not legally binding orders as with education, the report says that local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have implemented most of the Tribunal’s recommendations. 

IPSEA’s experience is that the extended powers have had a number of benefits for children and young people and their families, and we shared these with the Department for Education: 

  • A single place for families to go to resolve disputes about provision to meet their child’s needs. Many families do not have the financial or emotional resources to pursue a range of redress routes.
  • A more holistic approach to meeting children and young people’s needs. The Children and Families Act 2014 recognises that a child’s educational needs cannot be considered in isolation from their health and social care needs.
  • A vehicle for ensuring that children and young people’s legal entitlements to health and social care provision are upheld. No child or young person has received any provision as a result of the national trial that they were not legally entitled to in the first place. 

Ali Fiddy, IPSEA’s Chief Executive, was a member of the steering group advising the Department for Education on the trial. She said: 

“The national trial has demonstrated that children and young people who need health and social care support as well as special educational provision benefit from a single route of redress to resolve disputes. It’s welcome news that these extended powers will continue when the national trial ends next month. It’s essential that the Government’s SEND Review, when it’s published, maintains a single route of redress for families, so that children and young people can continue to get the full range of provision they need and to which they are entitled by law.”