Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Nearly 98% of SEND tribunals won on appeal

Over 98% of parents who legally appeal a local authority decision about lack of proper support for their children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) go on to win the appeal at a hearing.

This is according to data published by the Ministry of Justice which shows 13,658 appeals were registered in the 2022-23 academic year. This is a rise of 23.5% from 2021-22, when registered appeals hit 11,052.

The statistics show that 27.9% of appeals launched were against a refusal to secure an assessment for an Education and Health Care plan (EHCP) for their children while 8.5% were against refusals to make a plan.

An EHCP is a legal document outlining the support a child needs. This provision is in addition to and different from what is ordinarily available in a mainstream setting and more than the ‘reasonable adjustments’ required by every school for disabled children under the equalities act.

Under half (45.3%) of all appeals registered were for children with autism, while 14.1% were related to behaviour, emotional and social difficulty. A further 27% were related to a moderate learning difficulty, a rise of more than double since last year.

Parents shouldn’t be forced into long traumatic SEND battles

The National Autistic Society said it was truly alarming that 98% of cases brought to a SEND tribunal find in favour of the parents, who should have been listened to in the first place instead of being forced into long, traumatic battles to get the right support at school for autistic children.

Mel Merritt, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the National Autistic Society, added: “These figures highlight the often-hidden struggles autistic people and their families face to get the right support. From long waits for the 160,000 people waiting for an autism diagnosis, to parents being blamed for bankrupting councils for simply trying to get their children’s educational needs met, and being unable to get the right mental health or social care support. But as these figures show, when forced into tribunals, nearly all parents are found to be right.

“So instead of blaming or fighting parents, how about listening to them, and understanding the need for urgent reform? Three in four parents and carers (74%) said their child’s school place did not fully meet their needs, and more than one in four parents (26%) waited over three years to receive support for their child.

“We need to see less of an uphill battle for families of autistic children, and more of the right support and services that they’re entitled to.”

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