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Independent advice and support

The new system aims to empower families and give them more choice and control. This can be daunting for some so we want you to have as much support as possible so you can be informed and confident. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS, formerly Parent Partnership) gives parents, carers and young people (over the age of 16) impartial guidance on the new system.

If you are going through an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment, you are able to request support from SENDIASS. Suffolk Parent Carer Network can also provide confidential support to parents and carers.

If things don't go as you would like them to, you can use our Mediation and Disagreement Resolution provider, Anglia Care Trust to help resolve your problem. If you are not happy with the outcome, you can use the SEND Tribunal. Please note that you must use mediation or disagreement resolution before appealing to the SEND Tribunal. However, we wish to assure all parents that we see the SEND Tribunal as a last resort and sincerely hope we can reach a mutually acceptable position without recourse to the SEND Tribunal.

Mediation and Disagreement Resolution

In line with government restrictions regarding Covid 19 and the national lockdown/social distancing guidelines, neither the Local Authority nor our Mediation Provider Anglia Care Trust are able to offer face to face Mediation sessions. Anglia Care Trust are still delivering over the phone advice and sessions, as well as video calling facilities where appropriate, to continue providing our families with a Mediation service. Should a family wish to receive a face to face mediation, Anglia Care Trust will instead provide them with a Mediation certificate that allows them to proceed to appeal should they wish, whilst endeavouring to provide a face to face meeting as soon as restrictions are withdrawn. This ensures that all parties involved are meeting their responsibilities and families won’t face a delay in exercising their right to appeal.

Decisions about provision for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) should be made as soon as possible. However, where agreement cannot be reached, early resolution of disagreements is beneficial. SENDIASS (formerly Suffolk Parent Partnership) can provide access to mediation/disagreement resolution support.

There is a distinct difference between 'disagreement resolution' and 'mediation'. They refer to different processes. The 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) (SEND Code of Practice, 11.6). The use of these services is voluntary, unlike that of the mediation service - please see below. Disagreement resolution can help parents and young people to resolve disagreements about any aspect of SEN provision.

Mediation arrangements apply to parents and young people who are considering appealing to the Tribunal about EHC needs assessments and the special educational element of an EHCP (SEND Code of Practice, 11.5). Under the new 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.

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 use Anglia Care Trust to provide a mediation and a disagreement resolution service.

Publication of a Young Person’s guide to SEND disagreement resolution

Following the 2017 review of disagreement resolution arrangements, the Department for Education commissioned Mott MacDonald, as part of the Delivering Better Outcomes Together (DBOT) consortium, to develop and publish a guide for young people aged 16-25 on how to resolve special educational needs and disability (SEND) disagreements. Mott MacDonald worked with a range of organisations and groups, including the young people’s group FLARE, to produce the guide.

The guide ‘When people can’t agree – Special Educational Needs and Disability Complaints: a guide for Young People in education’ can be found here.

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.  The guide explains who young people can go to for support and the steps to take.

SEND Tribunal

You can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) if you disagree with your local authority's decisions about your child's special educational needs. You can find more information on appealing on the GOV.UK website.

This is something we hope will not be necessary as we are fully committed to working with families to ensure the best possible outcomes for all children and young people.

Extended Powers - SEND Tribunal

A 2-year national trial began on 3 April 2018 to extend the power of the special educational needs and disability (SEND) tribunal. As part of a special educational appeal, the SEND tribunal will be able to make non-binding recommendations on the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.

The national trial of the single route of redress will be extended from 31 March 2020 to 31 August 2020.


The Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) provides information, advice and support to young people with SEN or disabilities aged 0-25, and their parents, about education, health and social care.

SENDIASS can provide legally based, impartial, confidential and accessible information, advice and support and offer face to face, telephone and electronic information and advice as well as casework and representation when needed.

In Suffolk, parents and young people can contact the helpline on 01473 265210. This is often busy so please leave a message if you don't get through straight away and the team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Watch the SENDIASS service video:

More information regarding SENDIASS is available at


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

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