Complaints, mediation and appeals

What can I complain about?

You can make a complaint about the local authority (LA) if you feel they are failing in their duties, for example:

  • Failure to meet the timescales or deadlines for the Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) process or the review process of an EHCP.
  • Failure on the setting to deliver the provisions specified in your child/YP’s EHCP.

In the first instance you would make a complaint to Dorset Council, following their complaints procedure: Dorset LA Complaints Procedure

If you would like to take the matter further you may be able to make a complaint to the Local Ombudsman

If the LA have failed to implement a Tribunal Decision within the set timescale, you can contact The Local Ombudsman directly – you do not need to go through the LA’s complaint procedure first.

Appealing a decision related to the process of an EHCP

If you disagree with a decision made by the LA relating to your child/YP’s SEN, you can appeal to an independent body called the First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

What decisions can I appeal about to the Tribunal?

You can appeal if:

  1. The LA has refused to carry out an EHC needs assessment for your child.
  2. The LA has refused to issue an EHCP after an EHC needs assessment.
  3. You have received a final plan (EHCP) and you are not happy with parts B, F and/or I.
  4. The LA has refused your request to carry out a reassessment of your child’s SEN.
  5. The LA has refused to amend the EHCP after an annual review or a re-assessment.
  6. The LA has decided to cease to maintain (end) the EHCP.

As part of a national trial that began in April 2018, the tribunal powers have also been extended to cover the health and social care sections of the EHCP.

For all appeals, except refusals to carry out an EHC assessment, the tribunal can recommend that health and/or social care needs and provision are included or amended in an EHC plan. Although these recommendations are non-binding, health or social care commissioners will have to respond in detail to the LA and parents or young person, setting out the steps they are going to take or giving reasons why they have decided not to follow the tribunal recommendations.

When can I appeal?

You have the right of appeal when the LA sends you its decision in writing. It must tell you how to appeal and must include the following information:

  1.  you have the right to appeal within 2 months of the decision (or one month from the medication certificate date, whichever is later)
  2. the contact details of a mediation service
  3. that using mediation does not prejudice your appeal

Mediation before appeal

Mediation is a way of resolving problems with the help of an independent person who is trained to help each side express their views and reach an agreement. Mediation can avoid the need for a tribunal appeal. Mediation is free and it is voluntary.

The LA must give you contact details of Global mediation service in their decision letter.

Global Mediation run the service. They are independent from the council.  

Mediation is a non-adversarial way to resolve disputes.  The mediator will work towards an outcome that suits everyone involved in the meeting, in the best interests of your child.  

Global Mediation will do their best to make sure the mediation meeting happens within 30 days from the date you enquire.


You must contact the mediation service within 2 months of the decision letter.

When you contact the service the mediation adviser will explain what mediation is and answer any questions. They will ask you if you would like to use mediation or not.

If you do not want to use mediation, the adviser must send you a certificate within 3 working days. You must send this certificate with your appeal form to the tribunal.

If you decide you want to use mediation, this will be arranged within 30 days. You can still appeal to tribunal if you are not happy with the outcome, and in this case, you have another month to send in your appeal.

Mediation is not part of a SEND Tribunal process. Discussions and the actions plan from the mediation meeting cannot be used as evidence in a tribunal. Mediators cannot be called as witnesses to represent any parties as part of a SEND Tribunal 

If you would like impartial information about Global Mediation please view this page 


You do not have to contact the mediation service if you are only appealing the school, college or other education setting named in part I of an EHC plan.

How to proceed with an appeal

Once you have received your mediation certificate (except if you are appealing Section I Placement only), you will need to complete either:

Further information on how to appeal an Education, Health and Care Plan decision

Local and National organisations that can provide information and advice include:

Challenging decisions about support for children with SEND – Dorset Council

Contact us

For further information or advice please contact us

NB: The majority of hearings are now taking place via video link. This video from the HM Courts and Tribunal Service gives more information