Mediation can help parents or young people settle disagreements with their local authority or Integrated Care Board (ICB) about Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments and EHC plans. Parents and young people who want to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal must consider mediation first.

Mediation only covers specific types of disagreements. You and your family can request mediation services if your local authority has decided:

  • not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment of your child
  • not to draw up an EHC plan for your child, once they have completed an assessment
  • not to amend (change) your child’s EHC plan following an annual review or re-assessment
  • to cease to maintain (stop) your child’s EHC plan

Where your local authority has issued an EHC plan for your child, mediation is available if you disagree with:

  • the description of the child or young person’s special educational, health or social care needs in sections B, C and D of the EHC plan
  • the description of the special educational, health or social care provision to meet those needs set out in sections F, G and H1/H2 of the EHC plan

Mediation is important if you are considering registering an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. You will need a mediation certificate before you can register an appeal. The only exception are appeals which are only about the school or other setting named on the EHC plan (section I).

You and your family can get a mediation certificate either by taking part in a mediation meeting, or by speaking to a mediation advisor and telling them that you do not want to take part in a mediation meeting. Taking part in mediation is voluntary for parents and young people. However, the local authority must take part in mediation if a parent or young person has requested this.

You and your family need a letter from the local authority telling you about their decision before you can ask for mediation. For example, this could be a letter telling you that the local authority has decided not to undertake an EHC needs assessment for your child. If you want to request a mediation meeting about the content of an EHC plan, you will need the final EHC plan and the letter that accompanied it.

You have two months from the date of the decision letter to ask for mediation. Mediation meetings must be arranged within 30 days of the request being made.

If you and your family want to appeal to the SEND Tribunal, you must do this within two months from the date of the local authority’s decision letter or within one month from the date of the mediation certificate, whichever is the later.

Mediation meetings involve the parents and/or young person with SEND, an officer from the local authority and a mediation service. In Sheffield, the service provider commissioned by the local authority to provide mediation services is called Collis Mediation Ltd.

The parent or young person with SEND contacts the mediation service named in the decision letter. No paperwork is required. The mediation service provider will take details of the case and explain what mediation involves.

If you and your family do not want to take part in mediation, the mediation service will send you a mediation certificate within three working days. You can then appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

If you and your family do want to take part in mediation and your case covers one of the areas of disagreement outlined above, the mediation service will contact the local authority and set a date for a mediation meeting. Mediation meetings must be held within 30 days of the request being made. You can withdraw from the process at any time, request a mediation certificate and make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

Before the mediation meeting, the mediator or case worker will help you and your family prepare by meeting with you and writing a case summary. They will also do this with the other party and the summaries are exchanged before the meeting if possible. You and your family will be asked to suggest who should attend the meeting and where it might be held.

On the day of the meeting, you can bring someone to support you, such as a teacher, educational psychologist, SENCO or a family member or friend. You can bring reports and important information from people who have opinions about the support the child or young person may need.

At the mediation meeting, your concerns and options will be discussed. The meeting is confidential and without prejudice. This means that the SEND Tribunal would not consider anything discussed at a mediation session. It is an opportunity to resolve the matter outside of tribunal. An independent SEND mediator will manage the meeting, which may take up to two hours. The mediator ensures that everyone’s concerns are heard and allows the parties to form their own agreement.

Please note: In Sheffield any decision that is part of the EHC needs assessment process is made via the EHC Panel. The officer representing the local authority at mediation may agree to refer the case back to the local authority’s EHC panel. This panel will consider any new evidence which has come to light during the mediation to ensure that there is consistency in decision making and that this follows the same process. Parents will be informed of the outcome of the panel meeting by letter.

Within three working days of the meeting, the mediation service will send you a mediation certificate. If you are not happy with the outcome of the mediation you or your family will need a mediation certificate before you can register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. You have one month from the date on the certificate or two months from the date of the original decision (whichever is the later date) to register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal.

If the local authority agrees to take the steps you are asking for, it is important that they clearly set out in writing what they have agreed to do. This is called a “mediation agreement”. The local authority must carry out the actions written down in the agreement within specific time limits.