The Four Step Plan
If the Local Authority refuse your application for an educational health care needs assessment or plan and you believe that without this your child will be unable to access an education do not accept their refusal!! Statistics show that you are probably right and in this situation we suggest using our four step plan below. We cannot guarantee that this will work but its a method that has proven to be effective for many local parents. Its also been backed up by a SEND Caseworker profile published in March 2020 by Sutton Local Authority that states that they are required to "Identify and prioritise cases where disputes arise and work, under supervision, to find creative solutions to complex problems, with a resulting reduction in appeals to the SEN and Disability Tribunal" (Responsibility no.11). So effectively the more noise you make and the more people that get involved the more likely it is that your case will be "prioritised".
Step 1 File Your Appeal to the SEND Tribunal
This is the most important step. Knowledge is power here and filing your appeal shows the local authority that: (1) you don't accept their decision; (2) you have a clear idea of why this rejection should not have happened; and (3) that you are willing to take it further.
Before filling out the appeal form we found it helpful looking at the IPSEA guidance and looking at the relevant case law (if you are appealing the content of an EHCP please have a look at our Case Law page). Then, the form that you need to fill out can be found here. After filing your appeal e-mail your caseworker to tell them that you have filed the appeal, making it clear that you do not accept their decision.
If you feel like you would like some additional support in drafting your appeal the following are available to speak to and help:
Sutton Parents Forum: https://www.suttonparentsforum.org.uk/
SOS Send: https://www.sossen.org.uk/helpline.php
If you would like to pay for additional help we have had good feedback of the following providers:
Rosemary Brennan, Independant SEN Consultant: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rukhsana Koser, SEND Solicitor: https://www.educationlawyers.co.uk/theteam
Ed Duff, SEND Solicitor: https://www.hcbgroup.com/site/people/profile/edduff
Children's Legal Centre: https://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/get-legal-advice/education/
Step 2 Join our Facebook group and ask other parents their advice on your case
You can give as little or as much information to the group as you want but we have a great bunch of parents all willing to share what they have learnt. Sadly, whatever your challenge its very likely someone else will have already faced it. The link to our group is here.
We will ask you to fill out a few questions and accept the group rules. This is to ensure that only parents and carers of children with SEND join our group so that people feel comfortable discussing the sensitive issues involved.
Step 3 E-mail your local councillors asking for help
Each area of the Sutton borough has 2 or 3 councillors representing them.
If you are unaware of who yours are use the link here to find out.
E-mail or call all two or three asking them to investigate why you have been turned down when you believe you should have been granted either an assessment or plan. As local councillors it is their job to respond to your query and investigate your concerns.
Step 4 Ask to speak to your local MP
Under Sutton Local Authority we have have two MPs: Paul Scully for Sutton, Worcester Park and Cheam and Elliot Coburn for Carshalton & Wallington. You will need to arrange a meeting with either of them (depending where you live) by calling their offices and asking to meet with them at their weekly surgeries. Both are very supportive of the campaign and are happy to help parents so don't be afraid to speak with them. At the meeting explain and have evidence to show them why you believe your child is not being given the assessments and/or plan that you believe they are entitled to.
After following these steps it may be that you still end up going to tribunal. Sometimes, Sutton Local Authority refuse to retract their rejection no matter how much evidence you have that their decision was wrong. If that is the case don't be too disheartened. In 2019 of 96 appeals lodged only 12 cases were judged in favour of Sutton Local Authority. The data is here.