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SEND complaints and mediation

Complaints and Mediation Panel

Disagreements sometimes arise between parents/carers and Plymouth City Council when deciding what special educational needs and disability (SEND) support a child requires. If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to understand your rights to mediation services and appeals. This guide outlines the dispute resolution process in Plymouth.


Attempt early resolution

Before pursuing formal mediation or appeal, contact Plymouth's SEND Team or Plymouth Information Advice and Support for SEND (PIAS) to discuss your concerns. They may be able to resolve issues quickly by clarifying decisions or providing extra information. Keep notes from conversations and confirm any agreements in writing.



If early resolution is unsuccessful, you have the right to go to mediation before lodging an appeal with the First-Tier Tribunal about:

  • Refusal to assess educational, health and care (EHC) needs
  • Refusal to issue an EHC plan after assessment
  • Content of an EHC plan
  • Amendment of an EHC plan
  • Ceasing of an EHC plan

Mediation aims to resolve disagreements through discussion with an independent mediator. The service is free and confidential.

The benefits of mediation

  • More empowering than formal appeal proceedings
  • Less adversarial than tribunal process
  • Mediators have SEND expertise
  • Can improve communication between parties
  • Quicker than waiting for the tribunal date
  • Most cases reach an agreement through mediation

If you reach an agreement through mediation, the Council must follow through on commitments made. Mediation meetings are confidential and nothing discussed can be revealed during a tribunal.

How to access mediation

Contact Plymouth's SEND Team or Plymouth Information Advice and Support for SEND (PIAS) to arrange a mediation information meeting. If you decide to proceed, a mediator will schedule the mediation. You can bring along an adviser or supporter.

Global Mediation's Adviser can be contacted on 0800 064 4488. This service is free of charge and your conversation is confidential.

There are some circumstances in which you do not need to have a certificate from a mediation adviser before you register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. This is the case if the appeal is solely about the name of the school, college or other institution named on the EHC plan, the type of school, college or other institution specified in the plan or the fact that no school or other institution is named. In addition, you do not need to seek mediation advice if the appeal is solely about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan.

If you are unsure whether these exceptions apply you can contact Plymouth Information Advice and Support for SEND (PIAS) or Global Mediation for more information and advice.


Appealing to the Tribunal

If mediation is unsuccessful, you have the right to appeal Plymouth City Council decisions to the First-Tier Tribunal. You have 2 months from the original decision letter to register the appeal. The tribunal is independent and their decisions are legally binding.

The tribunal can uphold or dismiss the appeal, order the local authority to reconsider, or make recommendations about EHC plans. There is no cost to parents for lodging SEND appeals.

More information about Tribunals can be found on the GOV.UK website.


Who can help me?

It can be stressful navigating disputes and unfamiliar processes. Contact Plymouth Information Advice and Support for SEND (PIAS) service for impartial advice and support on resolving disagreements.


Make a complaint about children's social care

If you have any comments about children's social services or suggestions about how we can make things better we want to hear from you.

We hope problems can be sorted out quickly and easily by speaking with the person you normally see from social services, but if you'd like to speak to someone different, you can complain to our Customer Relations Team.

How to complain

If you're a child with a social worker you can complain using our contact card system - get a card from your social worker or call free on 0800 068 1249.

  • Call 0800 068 1249
  • Email
  • Write to the Customer Relations Team, Ballard House, West Hoe Road, Plymouth PL1 3BJ
  • Talk to your social worker or their manager about your concerns or speak to our Customer Relations Team (please contact us to make an appointment)

We'll look into your complaint and let you know what happens next.

What we need to know

When you contact us please give us as much of the following information as you can:

  • your name, address and telephone number
  • the name, address and date of birth of the person you represent if you're complaining on behalf of someone else
  • what your complaint is about
  • how you'd like us to put it right

How your complaint is dealt with

There are three stages to the complaints process.

Stage one: Local resolution

The manager responsible for your case will look into the complaints you've made and get back to you within 10 working days. If we can't give you a full response within this time we can extend this to 20 working days.

If you're not happy with the response at stage one you can ask for your complaint to move to stage two - investigation. You need to do this within 20 working days of receiving the stage one response letter. Contact the Customer Relations Team on 0800 068 1249 for advice before you move to this stage.

Stage two: Investigation

A formal investigation of your complaints will be carried out, usually by an external investigator. We should get back to you within 25 working days but we can extend this to 65 working days.

If you're not happy with the response at stage two you can ask to move to stage three - review panel. To do this you must write to the Customer Relations Team within 20 working days of receiving the stage two response letter.

Stage three: Review panel

A panel of three independent people will look at your complaints. You'll be invited to the panel and you can bring someone with you. The panel must be held within 30 working days of your stage three request and they'll and send a report on their decision to you, and to the Director of Services for Children and Young people, within five working days.

The Director will write to you with their findings within 15 working days of receiving the report.

If your problem hasn't been put right

If you've gone through all the stages of the complaints procedure and your problem hasn't been put right you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.


    Plymouth's Local Offer is organised into four main categories covering the following age ranges:

     Plymouth Local Offer homepage



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