The number of families who have appealed for more support for their children to a special educational needs and disability (SEND) tribunal has almost doubled in four years.
New government figures show 6,374 appeals were received with the SENDIST first-tier tribunal in 2018-19, up from 5,039 a year earlier.
The figures show large increases in the numbers appealing over SEND provision since the introduction of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) in 2014.
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Last month the Commons Education Select Committee raised concerns that SEND reforms “were a mess”, with parents facing a postcode lottery in the quality of provision and the delivery of EHCPs.
The number of appeals being made in 2018-19 is almost double the 3,236 made in 2015-16.
The new figures also show that the number of appeals being resolved is rising at a much slower rate than the number being lodged.
Ministry of Justice tables show 4,511 cases being concluded, conceded or withdrawn in the past year, compared with 4,337 cases in 2017-18 – revealing that an increasing number of cases are building up in the system.
There has also been an increase in the number of decisions that councils are making about children’s SEND provision.
Annual statistics show the proportion of appeals going to tribunal as a percentage of decisions that could be appealed is rising at a steadier rate.
In the 2018 calendar year, there were 6,023 appeals – which the government says represents 1.6 per cent of all appealable decisions. In 2015, there were 3,126 appeals, which represented 1.2 per cent of appealable decisions.
The government classes appealable decisions as initial applications for EHCP assessments which are turned down, assessments which result in no EHCP being issued, EHCPs being issued and EHCPs being discontinued.
The statistics also show that, for the second year running, more than three-quarters of SEND tribunal cases were postponed during 2018-19.
The Ministry of Justice said that, as a proportion of listed hearings, SEND tribunals continued to have the largest number of postponements – with 77 per cent of listed hearings being postponed in 2018-19, compared with 76 per cent in 2017-18.
This is far higher than any other type of tribunal. The next highest category was mental health tribunals, which had less than 20 per cent postponed.
The data also reveals that the number of SEND postponements have continued to increase year-on-year, from 624 in 2013-14 to 2,900 in 2018-19
Matt Keer, parent of a child with SEND, raised concerns about this issue in a post on the Special Needs Jungle website.
He said: “It’s very likely that your SENDIST appeal hearing will get postponed. Not every SENDIST appeal ends up going all the way through to a hearing – roughly half do.
“But for the second year in a row, roughly three in every four SENDIST hearings has ended up being postponed at least once, because the tribunal system doesn’t have enough panel members to handle the number of appeals that get to hearing.”