Since the Children and Families Act was introduced in 2014, consideration of third party mediation was made compulsory in cases where a child or young person's Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) status is in dispute. Mediation must therefore be considered before any appeal is made to a First-Tier Tribunal. But what exactly does it mean?
What can I expect from mediation?
Prior to an official tribunal, mediation is an informal meeting of two parties where they discuss their disagreement in the hope of reaching an agreement. For the majority of disagreements, you will at least be required to have a conversation with a mediator. The First Tier Tribunal will only very rarely and with very good reason, allow you to launch a SEND appeal without you having first considered mediation.
When you receive notice of your Local Authority's decision regarding the SEND status of your child, they will include details of a recommended mediation service. Even in cases where you do not feel mediation is appropriate, you should still contact the mediation service to show that you have at least considered it. You are obliged to act within two months of the date on the decision letter sent by the Local Authority to consider mediation and once a certificate is received, you will have an extra month from the date of the mediation certificate to lodge an appeal.
When you first contact your local mediation services, the following will be explained to you:
- That mediation is an informal negotiation run by a fully qualified but wholly independent third party, where people come together to discuss a disagreement.
- That mediation is voluntary.
- That there are deadlines involved that must be met by all parties.
- That the LA will pay any reasonable expenses that you and any witnesses incur by taking part in mediation.
How does the process of mediation work?
Mediation allows you to meet with your Local Authority for an open discussion about your concerns, with a legally trained mediator to facilitate the discussion. Usually, only one mediation session will be required and the entire process should be completed within 30 days.
It will be very useful to have at least a passing understanding of the appropriate law prior to going into mediation. For this reason, we would recommend you give us a call at Match Solicitors; we can help you prepare and understand the process better.
The mediator is not permitted to recommend any action to either party. The process depends upon both sides reaching agreement independently, and if this does not happen, then it will still be necessary to go to appeal. Your mediation certificate will be sent out to you three days after the mediation has taken place, or following the decision not to proceed with mediation, and must then be sent to the Tribunal along with the rest of the appeal paperwork.
If you are preparing for mediation or for an appeal and feel you require some further support or guidance, please call Match Solicitors today to speak to one of our expert lawyers in complete confidence.