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SEND tribunal: national trial

The special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) tribunal is changing.

As of 3 April 2018 the SEND tribunal has some new powers.

SEND tribunal can now look at health and social care concerns too

If you have concerns about the education sections of an education, health and care (EHC) plan or about a local authority decision to not issue an EHC plan, you can go to the tribunal and ask for these concerns to be addressed. For these cases, you will now also be able to ask the tribunal to look at the health and social care sections of the EHC plan as long as the local authority decision happened on or after 3 April or the plan was issued or amended from 3 April.

You still need an education complaint to go to tribunal

One important thing to understand is that you cannot go to a SEND tribunal if you do not have an education complaint - a health or social care complaint without a special educational concern does not enable you to use the SEND tribunal which must be "triggered" by a special educational concern.  More information on what is included in a special educational concern, and how to appeal, is set out on GOV.UK (opens in a new window).

This gives families a 'one stop shop' (or single route of redress) where they can seek redress for concerns in an EHC plan.

Previously, the tribunal had no powers over the health and social care aspects of a plan. Now, all elements of a plan can be reviewed in one place as long as there is an education concern.

The tribunal can make 'non-binding' recommendations about health and social care provision in EHC plans

The judgements that the SEND tribunal makes about health and social care elements of an EHC plan are 'non-binding'. This means that the law does not require health and social care commissioners to follow the judgements.

Although the judgements are non-binding, the local authority and health care commissioners are expected to follow them and because they are recommendations from a specialist tribunal, they cannot be rejected lightly.

The health or social care commissioner must write to the family and the local authority within five weeks to tell them if they are going to follow the recommendations or not.  If they are then they need to explain the actions they are going to take. However, if they decide not to follow the tribunal judgement, they must explain why they are not following the tribunal's recommendations. In these instances, you can still take your case to the relevant ombudsman (for social care (opens in a new window) or for health (opens in a new window)) and / or judicial review as you can now.

This is a two-year national trial

The government are trialling this new process for two years. At the end of the period, they will assess how well it has worked and make a decision on what happens next. 

IFF Research will be contacting parents and young people who have been through the trial to find out about their experiences.  They will be gathering evidence to help the government make this decision.

More information

You can find more information at:

In line with Schedule 2 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (opens in a new window) all local areas in England are required to publish details in their local offers for 'notifying parents and young people of their right to appeal a decision of the local authority to the Tribunal' and this includes their extended rights as part of the single route of redress national trial. The following information on the national trial, to supplement the information that must already be published on the right to appeal a decision of the local authority, has been included below to support local authorities in fulfilling this duty.

Contacts for information about the SEND Tribunal national trial

Contact the Dorset SEND Information, Advice and Support service (SENDIASS).

The evaluation of this trial is led by IFF Research working with Belmana. For any questions or to get involved, please contact IFF Research

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