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Concerns and complaints

Although Education, Health and Care agencies have been instructed to work together towards a single gateway for complaints on behalf of children/young people with special educational needs/disabilities, currently there are separate complaints procedures.


Parents/carers and young people (over 16 years) with special educational needs/disabilities who are not happy with their education, health or care services have the right to:

  • Complain to the relevant authority (different for education, health and care), and have their complaint properly and efficiently investigated;
  • Receive full and accessible information about the complaints process and about independent
    support available;
  • Receive full and timely replies detailing the outcome of any investigation into their complaint;
  • Be treated fairly, respectfully and with dignity when making a complaint, regardless of their racial identity, sexuality, disability, age, culture. religion, gender or status.

NB It is important to keep detailed dated notes of conversations and a dated copy of any paperwork sent or received relating to the complaint.

The future for appeals

'Throughout the passage of the [Children and Families] Bill through Parliament, there were calls for a better system of complaints and redress for parents and young people.


'The LGA argued that, because the EHC Plan integrates education, health and social care, this should be reflected in a single route of redress and appeal. This would mean that parents who have concerns or complaints about the health [including health commissioners] or social care elements of a plan would not have to go through a separate process to
obtain redress…


At a late stage, the Government introduced a review of the effectiveness of redress arrangements and the requirement that a report be laid before Parliament within 3 years of the Act coming into force (section 79). This leaves scope for the appeals process to be improved in the future.'
(Local Government Association, 2014)


Until this happens, the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (2015) provides a table showing 'Avenues to complaint and redress' for different agencies on page 246.

Raising concerns – young people's rights

The Children and Families Act 2014 requires local authorities to make Disagreement and resolution services available to parents and young people (over 16 years).


Under the Children and Families Act 2014, a young person over the age of 16 (the end of compulsory schooling) also has the right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. However, if a young person with special educational needs lacks mental capacity (see the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and guidance) parents or others acting on behalf of the young person in their best interests will be able to pursue such appeals or exercise their other rights under the Act (0-25 SEND Code of Practice, 2015 (CoP), Annex 1, p. 273).


Young people who have capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 can register an appeal in their name but can also have their parents’ help and support if needed
(CoP, section 11.44).

Raising concerns about education services

Parents/carers and young people (over 16 years) with special educational needs/disabilities may disagree with decisions taken by education services or their local authority.


If the service itself cannot resolve their concerns, three additional levels of complaint resolution are open to parents/carers and young people. Under the Children and Families Act 2014, the local authority must offer 'Disagreement resolution' and 'Mediation' services.


The First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) is a body, independent of Government that hears appeals against decisions made by local authorities on statutory assessments, Statements of Special Educational Needs and Education, Health and Care Plans. Although parents/carers and young people must receive a mediation certificate before lodging an appeal with the First-tier (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Tribunal, they need not go through the mediation process (Long, 2014).

Click on the links below to reveal
the explanation.

















For further information read Chapter 11 of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice (2015).

Level 1: Local resolution

Level 2: Disagreement resolution

Step 3: Independent mediation service

Level 4: Appealing to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal

Level 5: Local Government Ombudsman

Raising concerns about health services

The rights of parents/carers and young people over 16 to complain are upheld within the NHS Constitution. Parents/carers or young people must normally make a complaint within 12 months of the date of the event causing concern or as soon as it became a source of concern, unless there are exceptional circumstances.


The NHS website describes three steps to making a complaint. Click on each 'step' to reveal the explanation.

The NHS Choices website gives further guidance on making complaints:


Raising concerns about social care services

Parents/carers and young people over 16 years (or someone acting on their behalf) can make a complaint about a social care service if:

  • They are in receipt of that service; or
  • Feel they have a right to that service.

The complaint should be made as soon as possible after the event causing concern. The local authority Complaints Team can refer parents/young people/their advocates to independent organisations who can support them in making a complaint.


There are four steps to the complaints service – click on each button to reveal a further explanation:

Further details on making a complaint about social care services are available from:

Other appeals routes

Young people and/or parents may also complain directly through the established complaints procedures of other bodies, for example:

  • Early education providers (must receive a response within 28 days);
  • Schools (including academies, free schools and independent schools);
  • The Secretary of State (if disagreements have not been resolved at a local level and only with regard to maintained schools);
  • Ofsted for post-16 institutions (or, if not satisfactory, via the Skills Funding Agency);
  • Local authorities (with regard to issues such as admission to schools, exclusions, child protection and school transport).

(Mencap, 2014)

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