The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) has brought in new changes to the tribunal appeals process. The changes were brought in from 1 August 2016 and have not been widely publicised. The tribunal’s website will be changed in time. The changes are as follows:
All SEN appeals registered after 1 August will be allocated a 12 week timetable instead of 20 weeks. The aim for all new tribunal appeals to be allocated the following timetable:
Week 0 Appeal registered
Week 6 LA response and attendance form
Week 9 All further evidence
Week 12 Hearing
The parents’ attendance form will be due between week 6 and week 9.
The tribunal is trying to fit in all new appeals in this timetable but, we have been told, and have experienced, times where it may not be possible.
The local authority and/or parents can ask for the tribunal appeals timetable to be extended if additional time is required, for example, to gather evidence. Either party can also ask for an even shorter appeal timetable (seven weeks) if necessary.
All appeals against the local authority’s refusal to carry out an Education, Health and Care needs assessment will be heard on the papers alone. This means that there will be no hearing unless a specific request is made in writing setting out reasons.
We welcome the shorter appeal timetable. It fits in well with the overriding objective of the Tribunal Rules to deal with cases expediently and in a way that avoids delay. Twenty weeks to resolve issues around a child’s schooling has always been considered to be too long. Twenty weeks is half a school year. Considering that many appeals will follow a twenty week assessment process, parents could easily be looking at a year to resolve any education issues.
What a shorter tribunal appeals timetable will mean is that parents lodging an appeal will need to make sure they have all their evidence in advance. There will be very little time after an appeal is lodged to start thinking about seeking assessment reports, getting assessments done and reports ready in time for the further evidence deadline. Preparation is key.
For appeals against refusals to assess, parents will have no alternative but to get all their evidence in at the beginning. This will also mean that local authorities will have to set out their reasons for refusing assessments with more detail than most authorities currently do.
If you would like to talk about your child’s special educational needs then please contact us at [email protected] or call 0800 884 0723 – our specialist SEN solicitors are here to help.