Advice Line and Tribunal Helpline volunteers

IPSEA offers free, independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). One in five school pupils has SEND and thousands of these pupils are struggling to fulfil their educational potential.  We are the only charity providing this service across all SEND issues in England, working to empower parents to challenge their local authorities.

Both our Advice and Tribunal Helpline Volunteers provide legally based information, advice and support to parents with children with special educational needs and disabilities. The Tribunal Helpline gives next step advice on appeals and disability discrimination claims to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.  Our appointments last up to 30 minutes and our advisers will give you up-to-date information on the law, explain what it allows you to do and give you clear next-step advice. 

We are looking for the following skills and experience

Essential

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • IT literate
  • Ability to undertake comprehensive SEND legal framework training and put into practice
  • Ability to commit to a minimum of 2 years and on average, 4 hours each week ( please see the volunteer agreement for terms and conditions)

Desirable

  • Previous experience /knowledge of SEND issues
  • Previous case work experience

If you would like to join IPSEA as a volunteer, please download our application pack:

Application Form

Volunteer Agreement

Job Description

Contact Jo Voce, Volunteer Manager for more details:

Email: jvoce@ipsea.org.uk

Tel:      01799 582 030

When and where?

We hope volunteers can give at least four hours each week, but you can do this in one slot or spread across the week.  You can volunteer on any day of the week and at any time, so it can fit in with existing commitments.  And if you can give us more time – it is always welcomed! 

Our advice line volunteers provide advice over the telephone from wherever they live.

What?

Volunteers provide advice to families over the telephone.  Appointments are booked in advance and last up to 30 minutes.  You will receive details of who to contact and the reason for their call, but you could be giving advice about a number of situations including:

  • School-based special educational needs support, including targets and reviews associated with individual education plans and provision maps
  • Special educational needs assessments including how to ask for a statutory assessment of a child’s needs and advice on the assessment process
  • Statements and education, health care (EHC) plans including advice on how these should be written to maximise the benefits for each child. 
  • Problems with statement or EHC plan implementation including how to negotiate with the local authority and/or threat of legal action
  • Issues relating to disability discrimination in schools
  • Exclusions of children with special educational needs/disabilities.

At the end of the call you will need to write up details of the conversation and any advice given.  You may need to liaise with the Legal Team if you have any queries you could not answer. 

You will need to keep in regular contact with IPSEA so we know when you are available to volunteer and commit to ongoing support, supervision and development.

Could this be you?

We are looking for committed people who:

  • Can give at least four hours each week to volunteer on the advice line for the next two years
  • Have a genuine concern for helping get the right education for children with special educational needs and disabilities. 
  • Are a good listener, empathetic non-judgemental
  • Can offer parents and young people information, advice and support
  • Are receptive to feedback, learning and continuous improvement
  • Have good communication skills
  • Can explain, often complex legal information, in a way accessible to parents and carers
  • Understand the importance of empowering callers to make their own decisions
  • Are willing to learn IT skills to work effectively online
  • Can maintain confidentiality within IPSEA.
  • Can volunteer within IPSEA’s policies and procedures
  • Can commit to ongoing training and development

What can you expect from us?

You can expect from us the opportunity for training and development on a personal level.  Before volunteering on the advice line you will need to complete our comprehensive three stage training – see below for more details.  You will then have access to our ongoing training and online library of resources. 

Stage one – online modules

The volunteer e-learning consists of ten modules. Each module has a learning text for you to download, read and digest.  At the end of each module there are a series of questions which you will test your knowledge. 

The modules systematically build knowledge of the relevant area of law which you will need to know when advising parents.  Once you have completed all the modules you need to submit them – there is a pass mark of 80%. If you fail to reach 80%, you have an opportunity to retake.

You will need to have access to a computer and the internet and allow around three hours for each modules.  We will give you seven weeks to complete the modules and will be in regular contact to see how you are getting on and clarify any questions you may have.

Stage two - written assessment

Once you have completed and passed our online training, you will then be asked to complete a short written exercise to demonstrate that you can apply the knowledge that you have gained from your online study. 

Stage three – two day face to face training

The training will consolidate the knowledge you will have gained and help you apply that knowledge on the advice line.  The training will be interactive and include scenarios and case studies.  You will need to attend both days.  We will of course reimburse any reasonable travel expenses – further details will be sent with your invite to the training. 

Finally, you will have the opportunity to make a real difference to children and young people ensuring they get the right education. 

What next?

If you would like to join IPSEA as a volunteer, please download our application pack:

Application Form

Volunteer Agreement

Job Description

Contact Jo Voce, Volunteer Manager for more details:

Email: jvoce@ipsea.org.uk

Tel:      01799 582 030

“I volunteer for the advice line to help, often panic stricken, parents realise they do have power and there is a way to challenge local authorities.  I am happiest when I hear the relief in a parent’s voice when some advice has made a real difference to them.”

IPSEA mailing list

Click here to join our mailing list so that we can send you relevant updates and information.

IPSEA training

IPSEA provides a wide range of SEN training for Parents, School Staff, Parent Forums, Support Groups, Local Authority SEN teams, Parent Partnership Schemes, School Governors and other groups / organisations. Click here for details.

Advice Line

This provides next step advice on: problems with schools, requesting statutory assessment, statements and Education, Health and Care Plans, annual reviews, disability discrimination and exclusion. Please click here to book an appointment to get one of our advisers to call you back.

Tribunal Helpline

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.

Information Service

The Information Service is for general legal enquiries and will signpost you to factsheets and resources on our website.  The Information Service cannot provide specific advice about individuals and their circumstances.

Face to Face Advice

IPSEA is now able to offer free and independent legally based SEN advice at Face to Face sessions organised in conjunction with the Pen Green Centre for children and families (pengreen.org).

For information on how to book a session please click here.