Everyone is different so you’ll need to decide whether your young person is likely to want to go to a meeting or an appeal, and how well they would cope.
School, college and other meetings
Young people can and do go to meetings and as they get older, this is a helpful way for them to get involved in making decisions. Some people also like to know what everyone is talking about! But not everyone will want to, or will be able to manage it. Meetings can feel overwhelming and sometimes be boring too.
If your young person wants to be involved, you could ask them to come to the start of the meeting for a few minutes. It’s a good way to take part, see what the meeting is like and have a say with the least amount of stress. They can talk about what’s working at school or college and what they need help with. If they want to stay for the whole meeting, they can always ask to take a break.
Disagreement resolution and mediation meetings
Disagreement resolution is just what it sounds like – a meeting to resolve a disagreement. The discussion is helped by someone independent. It can be used by parents, carers and young people to try and resolve disagreements with:
- the local authority
- the governing bodies of schools and colleges
- health or social care services
The discussions focus on whether the organisations above have carried out their duty for a young person with SEN, regardless of whether they have an EHC plan or not.
Mediation is an informal, confidential and voluntary process. An independent person (a mediator) helps people who disagree about something to reach an agreement that both sides are happy with. It can be used when the parents of a young person under 16 disagree with a decision the local authority has made about their Education Health and Care (EHC) plan or an assessment for one. If the young person is over 16, then they decide whether to go to mediation or not, as long as they have mental capacity (see section above ‘What happens when my young person reaches 16?). If they don’t have mental capacity, they can ask you or another advocate to act as their representative.
Young people can, and do, go to disagreement resolution and mediation meetings. Although the mediator will try and make things as relaxed and easy as possible, this type of meeting can feel more stressful and intimidating than a school or college meeting.
If your young person wants to take part, or they’ve asked for the meeting, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re well prepared. Ask them to decide what they want to say, what’s important to tell everyone at the meeting and what questions they have.
Sometimes it can help to think about what the other side might be saying and plan what they could say in reply. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, so work out beforehand how you’ll deal with that. During these meetings you can ask for a break to go away and talk about something between you, or simply to stop the discussions for a short while.
If your young person is past compulsory school age, they have the right to ask for disagreement resolution or mediation and make decisions about it themselves. It’s always a good idea to have support though, whether that’s from you, someone who already knows and supports them or someone independent.
When a local authority makes certain decisions about the education and/or training of a young person with SEND, there is a right of appeal to an independent tribunal. That means if you and your young person disagree with some of the decisions made about an EHC plan or assessment, you can appeal those decisions.
If the decision is about a child up to compulsory school age, parents and carers have the right of appeal. If the decision is about a young person over compulsory school age and under 25, then it’s the young person who has the right of appeal as long as they have mental capacity (see section above ‘What happens when my young person reaches 16?).
Children and young people can and do go to tribunal and give evidence, if the tribunal panel agrees. It’s helpful for young people to be there to explain their case and the appeals panel will want to hear anything they have to say. Your young person may also want to ask questions of the local authority and any witnesses they have. If they are the person appealing, you can go with them to give support.
The appeal panel is made up of a judge and two other members with SEND expertise, and although they’ll do their best to make everyone feel comfortable it can be a difficult experience. It’s good to bear in mind that tribunal hearings can sometimes last for several hours and can be tiring and unsettling for older children and young people. If your young person has asked you to be their representative they may want to come but may not want to stay for the full hearing.