You do not need to have a lawyer to go to the SEND Tribunal and the vast majority of parents do not have any representative at their appeals. The majority of cases settle before the hearing (an average of 75%, based on figures from 2011-2017), meaning the parent or young person registered an appeal, but then came to an agreement with the local authority before the hearing. Of those which go on to a hearing, the majority (over 80%, from 2011-2017) are decided in favour of the parent or young person.

You may be able to get help preparing your appeal from the following places.

Legal aid

If you are on a low income or receiving certain types of benefits, you may be eligible for legal aid. The legal aid eligibility keycard sets out details of who qualifies. In summary you are likely to qualify if:

  • If your monthly gross income is less than £2,657 (although this is higher for families with more than four children); or
  • You are in receipt of Income Support, income-related Job Seeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Guarantee Credit or Universal Credit; and
  • Your disposable capital (savings and property) is less than £8,000.

(Note that if you own your house, the value of the house counts as ‘capital’. However, if your house is mortgaged, up to £100,000 can be deducted from the value of the house. If the unmortgaged value is £8,000 or less you may still qualify for legal aid.)

The type of legal aid available in the SEND Tribunal is known as ‘legal help’. A parent or young person eligible for this will receive support from a solicitor to prepare the case, and may also be able to obtain funding for any additional evidence needed such as reports from independent experts. It does not cover having a representative to attend the hearing.

If you think you might qualify for legal aid and want to apply, you must fill in this online form with details of your income. If you do qualify, you will then be put in touch with a solicitor. If you are unable to fill in the form online, you can call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345, or book a call-back here.

Information, Advice and Support Services

Your local Information, Advice and Support Service (known as IASS, or SENDIASS) should be able to provide advice and possibly someone to support you in bringing an appeal. You can find out about your local service from the Council for Disabled Children’s website.

IPSEA

You can get advice about your appeal from IPSEA’s Tribunal Helpline. You can book an appointment with one of our trained volunteers here.

This service isn’t available if you are being supported already by a solicitor or other advocate.

When you call we will also assess whether you need casework support from our Tribunal Support Service. This service does depend on the availability of our volunteers at the time your appeal is taking place and a caseworker cannot be guaranteed.

Other charities

If you are unable to get through to IPSEA, there are also other charities who give advice on SEN law, such as SOS SEN.

You may be able to get advice from disability-specific charities, depending on your child’s needs; for example the National Autistic Society and the National Deaf Children’s Society both have helplines for parents.

If you need specific advice on social care, health care or welfare benefits, Contact and the Disability Law Service are able to advise in these areas.