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Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

Volume 487: debated on Monday 2 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps he has taken to inform parents of changes to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal system; and if he will make a statement. (252965)

I have been asked to reply.

On 3 November 2008, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) became part of the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability—SEND). It sits within the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber.

In preparation for the move into the new tribunals structure there has been a two-part consultation process on the changes for those jurisdictions, including SENDIST: “Transforming Tribunals” discussed the proposals for a new tribunals structure and ran from 28 November 2007 to 22 February 2008; and, the “Health, Education and Social Care Chamber Rules” were consulted upon from 29 May until 11 July 2008.

Information on draft practice directions was available on the SENDIST website in July 2008, and the draft practice directions themselves were also sent out to a wide range of service user groups, including parents, parent representative groups and local education authorities, in early October.

Two newsletters were also issued to the service user groups, the first in July and the second in October 2008. Both contained detailed information on changes to processes and the latter addressed specific issues of concern raised by users.

There has also been a service user group made up of representatives from a range of voluntary groups and local education authorities working with the judiciary to ensure the rules, practice direction and case management system were fit for purpose.

Since November 2008, SEND judiciary and members of the user service group have provided free training on the rules, practice directions and case management system for 840 user and user representatives; a further 130 are booked for training in February 2009.

In addition, application forms for appeals and claims under the new system are available on the SEND website together with guidance on how to appeal and other relevant information. A clear link has been added to the site’s front page to direct users to this information. Further briefing notes on particular issues, for example, the assessment of children under rule 15 (4) (“provision to have a child assessed”), have been produced and issued to users.

The tribunal has also provided a final list of appeal numbers for cases that will be dealt with under the SENDIST regulation, and how onward appeals from the First-Tier Tribunal’s decisions will be dealt with under the new rules.