Support when things go wrong

This section includes information on:

1. What SENDIASS can do to help

2. Making a complaint to early years providers, schools and colleges

3. Disagreement resolution services

4. Mediation

5. SEND tribunal appeals

6. Complaining to the local authority

7. Local government ombudsman

8. NHS complaints

9. Parliamentary and health services ombudsman

10. Avenues for complaint



Listen to your concerns

Provide impartial information, advice and support about the law and your rights.

Assist you in resolving the issues

If you are unhappy about something surrounding your/ your child’s special educational needs (such as decisions about an EHC plan or special educational provision) but are unsure of the way forward, SENDIASS can help.

Listed below are some of the most common forms of disagreement resolution.

Making a Complaint to early years providers, schools, and colleges

When do I complain?

  • If you are unhappy with the special educational provision provided
  • You can still complain if your child does not have an EHC plan, or is in the process of getting one
  • If you feel your child had been discriminated against on the grounds of their disability

How do I complain?

  • It is worthwhile trying to resolve the disagreement early with the head teacher, teacher or SENCO to avoid unnecessary stress
  • If you are unable to resolve the disagreement informally you would need to ask the education provider for their formal complaints procedure.
  • SENDIASS can offer you support, and arrange and attend meetings with you (if you require) if a difficult situation is unable to be resolved

What if I am still unhappy?

The next course of action will depend what the complaint is regarding. Please see the avenues for complaint table, or contact SENDIASS who will be able to advise and assist you with the next steps.

Disagreement Resolution Services

What does a disagreement resolution service involve?

  • This is a service which helps parents and young people resolve disagreements through mediation
  • The service assists all children and young people with SEN, not just those who are being assessed for, or have an EHC plan.
  • Use of the service is voluntary and has to be with the agreement of all parties.
  • Your Local Authority must make disagreement resolution services available to parents and young people.
  • The Local Authority do commission the service, but are independent of it.

SENDIASS can offer support in disagreement resolution

What can the service resolve disagreements about?

  • Any aspect of SEN provision
  • Health and Social care disagreements during the processes related to EHC needs assessments and plans.

How is this service made available to me?

  • Parents and young people can refer themselves.
  • KIDS, who are an accredited mediation provider, provide the disagreement resolution service on behalf of the City of York council. To view their website and/ or make a referral, please click here.
  • Local Authority’s must make the availability of disagreement resolution services known.

A decision not to use disagreement resolution services has no effect on the right to appeal to the tribunal


What is mediation?

This is a service, commissioned by the local authorities which is designed to help settle disagreements between parents or young people and local authorities over EHC needs assessments and plans

When can I use mediation?

Mediation can be used before deciding whether to appeal to the First-Tier tribunal about decisions on assessment or the special educational element of a plan

Mediation can also consider health and social aspects of a plan, however it is not possible to appeal to the tribunal regarding these parts.

Requirement to consider mediation

If you wish to make an appeal to the First Tier tribunal, you may only do so after you have contacted an independent mediation advisor and discussed whether mediation might be a suitable way of resolving the disagreement

You should not be pressured into going to mediation, the requirement is only that it is considered.

However, if the appeal is solely about the name or the type of the school, college or other institution named on the plan, this requirement does not apply.

It is important to note that the tribunal will not take account of the fact that mediation has taken place, or has not been taken up, nor will it take into account the outcome of the mediation.


SEND tribunal appeals

What is the SEND tribunal?

The SEND tribunal hears appeals against decisions made by local authorities in England in relation to Children and Young people’s Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans

What issues does the tribunal deal with?

The decision of a Local Authority:

  • Not to secure an EHC needs assessment
  • Not to issue an EHC plan
  • Not to carry out a reassessment following a request
  • Not to amend an EHC plan following a review or reassessment
  • To cease to maintain an EHC plan

If the child or young person already has a plan, the tribunal will hear appeals regarding:

  • The child or young persons special educational needs as specified in the plan
  • The special educational provision as specified in the plan
  • The school, other institution, or type of school or other institution, named in the plan

 You can also appeal to the tribunal about disability discrimination

 If you are unsure whether you can appeal, SENDIASS can provide impartial information and advice on this.

How to appeal

Time limits

The deadline for registering an appeal with the tribunal is:

  • 2 months from the date the Local Authority sent the notice containing a decision which can be appealed.


  • 1 month from the date of a mediation certificate which has been issued following the mediation of the parent or young person being given mediation information

Things to consider:

Where an appeal is made regarding a decision to cease an Education, Health and Care Plan, the local authority has to maintain the plan until the tribunals decision is made.

Do I need any specialist advice?

If a tribunal appeal is considered necessary, specialist advice and information should always be sought. Legal Aid may be available.

What happens if I win my appeal?

The Local Authority must act on the tribunals decision within a set amount of time. Please click here for time limits.

What happens if my appeal is rejected?

  • You may be able to get the decision ‘set-aside’ (cancelled) if you think there has been a mistake in the process – your decision letter will tell you how to do this.
  • Ask the tribunal to ‘review’ the decision, e.g. if your circumstances have changed since you got the decision or the decision contains a mistake – your decision letter will tell you how to do this
  • Ask for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals) chamber if the tribunal’s made a mistake about the law.

Complaining to the Local Authority

When can I complain?

All Local Authorities have a responsibility to consider complaints about decisions made in relation to the following:

  • Admission to schools (except in voluntary aided schools)
  • EHC needs assessments
  • Exclusion of pupils from schools
  • Child protection/ allegations of child abuse
  • Complaints about the action of a governing body
  • School transport

 How do I complain to the City of York Council?

Please click here for information on how to make a complaint.

 What if I am not happy with the outcome?

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Council’s decision, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Local Government Ombudsman

The Local Government Ombudsman can investigate complaints against Local Authority’s where the complaint has not been resolved by the Local Authority’s complaints procedure.

How do I make a complaint?

Complaints can be made to the Local Government Ombudsman via it’s website here.

NHS Complaints

The NHS complaints arrangements cover the health services which a child or young person receives under an EHC plan.

How do I make a complaint?

  • A complaint may be made to a service provider (e.g. the NHS Hospital Trust) where there are concerns about the service provided.
  • A complaint may be made to the Clinical Commissioning Group where there is a concern about the way in which a service is commissioned or provided – this might include concerns about the appropriateness of the services in an EHC plan.

Is there any support available?

  • Local Healthwatch has a duty to provide patients with advice on how to take forward a complaint, or resolve an issue. Contact details for your local Healthwatch are available on the Healthwatch for England website here.
  • Support about making a complaint about health services can also be provided by NHS Complaints Advocacy Services.

What if I am unhappy with the outcome of my complaint?

If you are dissatisfied with the way the NHS has dealt with your complaint, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman, though usually the NHS will need to have had a chance to resolve it locally.

Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman

What do they do?

Their role is to investigate complaints where individuals have been treated unfairly or have received a poor service from government departments and other public organisations in the UK, and the NHS in England.

More information on the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman, including how to make a complaint, is available on their website here.

Avenues for complaint

There is an informative document taken from the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years which you can download here. This explains who you can complaint to for what issues.


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For more information please contact:

01904 554312

01904 555698

Useful documents


York Family Information Service and Information Service for Young People

01904 554444 / 01904 555400

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