SEND Tribunal powers expanded

When Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans were introduced in 2014, the new legislation failed to address a major flaw in the system: the lack of a single route of redress. Although EHC plans were intended to be holistic, families were still only able to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal about the educational aspects of their plan. Disputes about the health and social care aspects had to be resolved through separate complaints processes. This issue is now being addressed.

A two-year national trial will expand the powers of the SEND Tribunal to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of EHC plans, alongside the special educational aspects. This means that families will be able to appeal against sections B, C, D, F, G, H and I of an EHC plan. The trial starts on 3 April 2018 and will only apply to local authority decisions or EHC plans issued or amended after this date.

Although the trial brings families one step closer towards having a single route of redress and should encourage a more joined-up approach, two major issues remain. Firstly, tribunal recommendations for health and social care partners will be “non-binding” – which means that, unlike decisions on education, they don’t have to be followed. Secondly, local authorities and health commissioners will be able to claim reimbursement of costs incurred in taking part in the trial, up to a maximum of £4,000 per case – but there is no equivalent grant for parents, who may well incur additional costs if hearings become longer or more complex.

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