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Councils waste £253 million fighting parents at SEND tribunals since 2014

15 December 2021

Research by Special Needs Jungle (SNJ) shows that Local Authorities have spent nearly a quarter of a billion pounds fighting parents at SEND tribunals since 2014.

The research has been undertaken as Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service releases its set of annual figures about the work of the Special Educational Needs and Disability First Tier Tribunal (SENDIST) – a tribunal where individual families can appeal against a range of local authority SEND decisions concerning Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Families can also go to SENDIST to appeal against particular types of disability discrimination.

SNJ estimates that Local Authorities collectively allocated around £60m of their resources towards defending SENDIST appeals in 2020-21. 

SENDIST panels upheld local authority decisions in 168 of 4,825 hearings in 2020-21 – an LA success rate of 3.6%  – the worst on record. 

Across the seven full academic years since the SEND reforms became law, SENDIST panel hearings have upheld just 7% of local authority decisions.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “We totally agree with SNJ when it says that families are not ‘winning’ at tribunal. Families are having to endure a brutal, drawn out, labour intensive process to fight for what they are legally entitled to – the same right to an appropriate education that families of children without SEND are given as standard. The figures speak for themselves. The SEND process is not fit for purpose and needs an urgent overhaul, where the needs of children and families are put front and centre, and the fight that so many parents have to put up is consigned to history.”