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Independent advice and support

We know that navigating the processes around SEND can be daunting. There are various local and national advice and support services that might be useful to you; the details of which are below, but if you can't find what you're looking for, do drop us a line at localoffer@suffolk.gov.uk and we'll do our best to help.

Disagreement Resolution and Mediation

Decisions about provision for children and young people with SEN should be made as soon as possible. In most cases this will be achieved by early years providers, schools, colleges, local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) working closely together and agreeing what should be provided with parents and young people. However, where agreement cannot be reached, early resolution of disagreements benefits parents and young people and aims to avoid unnecessary stress and expense.

In SEND terms, the words 'disagreement resolution' and 'mediation' refer to different processes:

Disagreement Resolution

Disagreement Resolution is the process for exploring and addressing issues about any aspect of a child's SEN provision, including health and social care disagreements. It is intended to provide a quick, non-adversarial way to help parents and young people to resolve disagreements about any aspect of SEND provision. Disagreement Resolution is voluntary, independent, confidential and does not affect the outcome of a tribunal hearing. A parent or young person can ask for Disagreement Resolution at any time during the SEND process, even if you have already lodged a tribunal appeal. 

Every Local Authority must make Disagreement Resolution services available to cover all children and young people with SEN, not just those with an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP), and in Suffolk we have comissioned Anglia Care Trust to provide this for us. 


Mediation arrangements apply to parents and young people who are considering submitting an appeal to the SEND Tribunal. Under Government guidelines, parents and young people must contact an independent mediation adviser before registering an appeal about EHC Needs Assessments or the SEN element of an EHCP with the SEND Tribunal.

Mediation can take place when the following decisions are made by the Local Authority:

  • not to carry out an EHC Needs Assessment;
  • not to draw up an EHCP;
  • not to amend an EHCP;
  • to cease to maintain an EHCP.

Mediation can also take place, if parents or young people want it to, after they receive a final EHCP or amended plan.

Mediation is confidential, without prejudice and privileged - what you discuss during mediation cannot be disclosed in court without consent. In Suffolk, we also use Anglia Care Trust to provide our mediation services.

A Young Person’s guide to SEND disagreement resolution

The Department for Education have published a guide for young people aged 16-25 on how to resolve special educational needs and disability (SEND) disagreements. The guide provides advice and information about how young people who are unhappy with the support they are getting for their special educational needs or disability can find the right help and advice to resolve their issues, explains who young people can go to for support and the steps to take.

You can read it here: When people can't agree - Special Educational Needs and Disability Complaints: a guide for Young People in Education.

SEND Tribunal

The SEND Tribunal (you may also hear this referred to as the First Tier Tribunal or SENDIST) hears appeals against decisions made by local authorities in England in relation to children's and young people’s EHC needs assessments and EHC plans. It also hears disability discrimination claims against schools and against local authorities when the local authority is the responsible body for a school.

Parents (in relation to children from 0 to the end of compulsory schooling) and young people (over compulsory school age until they reach age 25) can appeal to the Tribunal about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans, following contact with a mediation adviser in most cases. The Tribunal hears appeals about:

• a decision by a local authority not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment
• a decision by a local authority that it is not necessary to issue an EHC plan following an assessment
• the description of a child or young person’s SEN specified in an EHC plan, the special educational provision specified, the school or other institution or type of school or other institution (such as a mainstream school/college) specified in the plan or that no school or other institution is specified
• an amendment to these elements of the EHC plan
• a decision by a local authority not to amend an EHC plan following a review or re-assessment
• a decision by a local authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan

You can find out more about SEND Tribunals on the GOV.UK website.


The Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) provides impartial and confidential information, advice and support to children and young people, and their parents and carers. To access their information and advice visit: www.suffolksendiass.co.uk.

You can contact SENDIASS by completing their web contact form, emailing enquiries@suffolksendiass.co.uk, calling 01473 265210, or texting ADVICE4ME to 87007.

Watch the SENDIASS service video:

More information regarding SENDIASS is available at https://www.suffolksendiass.co.uk/


An advocate is someone who is independent of social services and the NHS, and who isn't part of your family or a close friend. Advocacy can support you to:

  • make your opinions, views and concerns known
  • find out about your rights and options
  • make your own choices
  • be involved in decision-making
  • take part in important formal meetings

They will not give you their personal opinion, solve problems or make decisions for you, but they will listen to what you want, support you to speak up for yourself, and help you to find information to make informed decisions and take control of your life. 

Suffolk Advocacy Service, provides Independent Advocacy support for both children and adults across Suffolk, the service is delivered by POhWER, in partnership with ACE Anglia, Suffolk Family Carers, and Suffolk User Forum.  

Download the flyer or follow this link to their website for more details and referral information.  

Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS)

The Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) within the Ministry of Defence provides advice and guidance to Service parents, educational establishments and local authorities on educational issues relating to Service children, including issues relating to SEN.  As such, links to CEAS should be included on all local offers, as essentially any Service family, anywhere in England, can access CEAS support.

For more information, visit the GOV.UK website.

SEND YPN (Young Person's Network)

The YPN is a growing network of young people who want to have their say to help shape the services and support provided in Suffolk for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The aim of the network is to:

  • Have fun and take part in social events
  • Have a voice
  • Be involved in decision-making
  • Shape and improve services for young people

If you'd like to find out more, or are interested in joining the group, please email SuffolkYPN@suffolk.gov.uk.

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