Special Educational Needs: Tribunals

Department for Education written question – answered on 25th April 2022.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the current requirement for parents to consider mediation before accessing the SEND Tribunal; and for what reason he has concluded that mediation should become mandatory before accessing that tribunal.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the policy proposal in his March 2022 SEND Review to make mediation mandatory before allowing families to go to the SEND Tribunal, what assessment he has made of the impact this will have on access to support for families with disabled children.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Throughout the SEND Review, parents and carers told the department how lengthy, stressful, and often expensive, the tribunal process can be.

In the current system, in most cases, families must secure a mediation certificate before registering an appeal with the tribunal, but they do not have to participate in the mediation itself. If the parent or young person does decide to proceed with mediation then the local authority must ensure that a mediation session takes place within 30 days. There were 4,100 mediation cases held during 2020. Of these, only 1,100 (27%) were followed by appeals to the tribunal.

Waiting for a SEND tribunal hearing can take significantly longer - the tribunal has a performance measure that 75% of appeals should be brought to hearing and the decision issued within 22 weeks.

This government’s proposals seek to resolve issues earlier and improve relationships locally by strengthening mediation, including consulting on making it mandatory. Parents will still be able to go to tribunal if necessary.

The Green Paper is now out for public consultation on its proposals until 1 July.

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