The guidance on resolving disagreements is based on the following principles:
- Decisions about provision for children and young people with SEN or disabilities should be made jointly by providers, parents, and children and young people themselves. A person-centred approach should take into account the views of children, young people and parents.
- The Education, Health and Social Care services should be open in their communication, so that parents and young people know where they are in the decision-making process. Parents’ knowledge and experience should be used to support good decision making and they should know the reasons why decisions have been made.
- Parents and young people should be given information and, where necessary, be supported to take part in decision-making and complaints processes. Support can be provided by statutory or voluntary organisations.
- All schools and education settings will have a complaints policy that can be requested from the setting and followed.
Impartial Advice and Support
Parents and young people can access informal support in resolving disagreements through the local impartial information, advice and support service (IASS) and with the help of independent supporters.
While ‘disagreement resolution’ and ‘mediation’ are often used interchangeably, under the Children and Families Act 2014 they refer to different processes.
Disagreement resolution arrangements apply more widely and are distinct from the mediation arrangements.
Use of the disagreement resolution services is voluntary and has to be with the agreement of all parties. It is intended to provide a quick and non-adversarial way to resolve disagreements. They are confidential and do not affect the outcome of any tribunal hearing.
The service, while commissioned by the Local Authority, must be independent of it – no-one who is directly employed by a local authority can provide disagreement resolution services.
Whereas parents and young people must contact a Mediation Adviser before registering an appeal about EHC needs assessments or the SEN element of an EHC plan they do not have to engage with the disagreement resolution services at any time, including before registering an appeal.
Mediation arrangements apply specifically to parents and young people who are considering appealing to the Tribunal about EHC needs assessments and the special educational element of an EHC plan or who want mediation on the health and social care elements of an EHC plan.
Parents and young people can also access informal support in resolving disagreements through the local impartial information, advice and support service and with the help of independent supporters.