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…for Parents

Essential Mediation provides an independent, impartial and confidential mediation and disagreement resolution service for parents/carers of children with special educational needs, health care services, local authorities and schools who have been unable to reach agreement about a child’s special educational needs.

Unlike most mediation company’s, all of our services are delivered and facilitated by accredited mediators rather than administrators/support staff. Our mediation and disagreement resolution services offer the chance for an independent person to become involved to help the parties involved to find a solution.

All our mediators have a recognised mediation accreditation and are independent, highly skilled, experienced professionals. They have all worked directly within the SEN system and have a wide range of experience in working with parents, educational settings, professionals and local authorities.

Please click here to download our leaflet for parents or visit our FAQ page for further information.

Why are these services offered?

The Government requires all local authorities to provide independent mediation and disagreement resolution services to help when parents/carers, young people, educational settings, health services and the local authority cannot agree on how to meet a young person’s special educational needs, with the aim of reaching an early resolution to avoid any unnecessary stress and expense.

Under new legislation parents and young people who wish to make an SEN Appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (SEND) may now only do so after they have considered mediation as an option to resolve their dispute by contacting an independent mediation advice service and obtained a mediation certificate. The only exception to this requirement is if the appeal is solely about the name of the school or other institution, the type of school or institution or the fact that no school or institution has been named. In addition local authorities have to provide a disagreement resolution service outside of the appeals process as well as specific pre tribunal mediation. The new legislation can be read here.

Your right to an appeal hearing by the First-Tier Tribunal Service is not affected whether you engage with mediation/disagreement resolution services or not.

How can mediation or disagreement resolution help?

  • Mediation and disagreement resolution can help:
    Improve communication between parents/carers, educational settings, health services and local authorities;
  • Bring the right people and information together;
  • Provide a safe, secure environment to allow communication to take place freely;
  • To focus people on the issues and needs;
  • To rebuild the trust between parents/carers, educational settings, health services and local authorities so that they can share their knowledge of the child or young person and their concerns to find the best outcome for all involved.

Is there a cost?

These services are provided free of charge to young people and parents/carers of children with SEN as it is paid for by the local authority.

Do I have to seek mediation advice?

Yes if you want to appeal to the tribunal service. There is now a compulsory requirement for mediation to be considered as a way to resolve a dispute before a parent or young person can lodge an appeal to the First-Tier tribunal service with the exception of appeals in relation to the name or type of school/institution in an EHC plan.

Parents/young people who wish to make an appeal to the Tribunal about the SEN element of an EHC plan may do so only after they have contacted an independent mediation adviser and discussed whether mediation might be a suitable way of resolving the dispute(s).

At Essential Mediation all our advisers are accredited mediators rather than administrators or case managers. We believe that it is important for parents and young people to speak to someone who has first-hand experience and knowledge of the mediation process and SEN legislation so that they are provided with accurate, impartial information to assist them with their decision making.

Once you have received mediation advice it is up to you to decide whether you want to go to mediation before taking your appeal to the tribunal. If you do not want to try mediation first, the mediator will issue you with a certificate within three working days so that you can register your appeal.

What is the difference between mediation and disagreement resolution services?

Under the Children and Families Act 2014 the requirement for disagreement resolution and mediation services have been enhanced. While disagreement resolution and mediation are in effect one and the same thing, the Government has made a distinction between these services as follows: Disagreement resolution services are for parents of children and/or young people with SEN. They are designed to resolve disagreements about any aspect of SEN provision and health and social care disagreements, whether they have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan or not.

Whereas mediation services apply specifically to parents and young people who are considering appealing to the tribunal about an EHC assessment and special educational needs element of an EHC plan, or who want mediation on the health and social care elements of an EHC plan.

If you are still unsure about the service you require then contact the SEN Advice Line on 01908 889080 or email admin@essentialmediation.co.uk and you will be able to speak with a qualified mediator who will be able help you with your query if your local authority subscribes to the service.

When is it appropriate to use disagreement resolution?

Disagreement resolution service can be used at any time if both parties agree. The disagreement resolution arrangements cover all children and young people with SEN, not just those who are being assessed for or have an EHC plan.

The disagreement resolution service is to help resolve four types of disagreement or to prevent them from escalating further:

  • Disagreements between parents/young people and local authorities, education providers, about how these authorities, bodies or proprietors are carrying out their education, health and care duties for children and young people with SEN, whether they have EHC plans or not;
  • Disagreements between parents/young people and education providers about the special educational provision made for a child or young person, whether they have EHC plans or not;
  • Disagreements between parents or young people and Clinical Commissioning Groups or local authorities about health and social care provision during EHC needs assessments, while EHC plans are being drawn up, reviewed or when children or young people are being reassessed;
  • Disagreements between services i.e. local authorities and health commissioning bodies during EHC needs assessments or reassessments, the drawing up of EHC plans or reviews of those plans for children and young people with SEN.

It is most likely that you would access the service after having tried to resolve any disagreement through the arrangements available locally, such as; meeting with the special needs co-ordinator of the school, talking to your named SEN Officer or accessing your local Parent Partnership Service.

When is mediation appropriate?

Mediation is specifically linked to decisions about an EHC assessment or plan and should be considered when a parent or young person decides to lodge an appeal with the First-tier tribunal service.

Mediation can be used to resolve a wide range of different types of disagreements, such as:

  • Refusal to carry out an EHC assessment;
  • Refusal to issue an EHC plan;
  • Cessation of a plan;
  • The content of your child’s plan;
  • The amount of therapy provision detailed in the plan;
  • The type of school or educational setting proposed by the local authority;
  • The school or educational setting named in the EHC plan;
  • The delivery of the plan;
  • Following the outcome of a tribunal hearing.

Ideally mediation should be used during the early stages of a dispute, before parties become entrenched in their views and costs are incurred. Mediation works best when people are able to listen to each other, irrespective of their positions, and are willing to work with each other to find a solution to move forward.

It is most likely that you would access the service after having tried to resolve any disagreement through the arrangements available locally, such as; meeting with the special needs co-ordinator of the school, talking to your named SEN officer or accessing your local Parent Partnership Service.

How do I know which service I need?

If you are unsure which service you need after reading this page, then phone our SEN Advice Line on 01908 889080 or email admin@essentialmediation.co.uk and you will be able to speak with a qualified mediator who will be able help you with your query if your local authority subscribes to the service.

Do I have to go to mediation before I can go to tribunal?

No you do not have to go to mediation before you can go to a tribunal. However, you do have to consider mediation as a way to resolve your disagreements before you can lodge your appeal unless:

  • Your appeal is solely about the name of the school, college or other institution named on the plan, the type of school, college or other institution specified in the plan or the fact that no school or other institution is named;
  • Your Appeal relates solely to the health and social care elements of an EHC Plan;
  • If it is a disability discrimination claim.

You can do this by speaking to one of our independent mediators on 01908 889080 or by emailing admin@essentialmediation.co.uk. Our mediation advisory service is facilitated by accredited mediators and provides you with factual, unbiased information about mediation and the process as well as answer any questions that you may have.

Once you have received mediation advice it is up to you to decide whether you want to go to mediation before taking your appeal to the tribunal. If you do not want to try mediation first, the mediator will issue you with a certificate within three working days so that you can register your appeal.

Your right to appeal is not affected if you do not have mediation first and no inference will be drawn by the tribunal if you have not used the mediation services.

What happens if I decide to go to mediation?

If you decide to take part in mediation:

  • You will be allocated a dedicated mediator who will guide you through the process;
  • A date and time will be set for the meditation day in agreement with the key people. The mediation will be held in a neutral location within 30 days of the local authority being told you would like mediation;
  • A proposed form of Mediation Agreement will be sent to you, the local authority and any other professionals involved;
  • Each party will be asked if they would like to provide the mediator with a summary of the disagreement(s) along with any other relevant documents so that the mediator can have some background information prior to the meeting;

On the mediation day:

  • You will be greeted by the mediator on arrival and shown to a room which will be available to you for the rest of the day;
  • Whilst there is no formal structure to the mediation day, unlike that of a tribunal or court hearing. The day will normally begin with an individual meeting between the mediator and each party;
  • Usually this is followed by a joint meeting at which the mediator makes sure that the process is understood and emphasises the ground rules. Everybody is encouraged to share their initial concerns and feelings about the disagreement. However there is no requirement for this if one party does not want to or feel able to face the other person at the beginning of the mediation day.
    There will potentially be joint and individual sessions at any time during the mediation day;
  • Throughout the course of the day, the amount and type of meetings will vary according to the needs of the parties and the organisation which the mediator believes will be most effective;
  • The mediation will continue until either an outcome has been agreed, the parties agree to take a break and resume on another occasion, or one party chooses to abandon the mediation process.

After the mediation the Mediator will issue a certificate within three working days confirming that mediation has concluded and, if all your issues haven’t been resolved, you can use the certificate to register your appeal with the tribunal.

How do I request a mediation or disagreement resolution meeting?

You can request a mediation or disagreement resolution meeting or seek advice by calling 01908 889080, emailing admin@essentialmediation.co.uk or by completing the enquiry box.

Can I claim expenses?

Yes, you can claim expenses for attendance at mediation.

The local authority will pay reasonable expenses to parents and young people who attend a mediation session. For example, public transport costs, petrol/diesel costs, child care costs. However, there are limits to what you can claim and you must be able to provide evidence of your expenditure.

If you would like to claim expenses then please let your allocated mediator know as soon as possible and they will advise you on your local authorities’ processes and procedures.

What do I do if I am not happy with the service provided?

If you are not happy with the service that we have provided to you – about its quality or reliability, about the way that our staff have treated you, about the decisions that have been made then click here for further information.