Tribunals' decisions not being implemented
Councils were also accused of dragging their feet when additional support needs tribunals go against them, MSPs heard.
The education committee at Holyrood was told that many parents were finding that placing requests were not materialising even after rulings in their favour, leading to a call for greater powers to enforce tribunals' decisions. "There have been a number of instances where a decision of the tribunal has not been implemented timeously and where the expectation of the parent has not been met," according to the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland (ASNTS), in a written submission.
They explained that there was "no way" of tracking when decisions made were not implemented, or were not implemented properly and in time. There were several ways of trying to ensure implementation, but none involved the tribunal.
They told the committee that the bill should be changed to enable parents to apply directly to the tribunal for power of referral to Scottish ministers, which would "greatly enhance the force of tribunal decisions".
The committee was concerned that odds at tribunals were stacked in authorities' favour because they could draw on expert legal help. ASNTS president Jessica Burns told MSPs that in 17 out of 76 cases, the parents involved had not had legal representation. She did not believe that this was having a big impact on the outcomes of cases.
ASTNS did tell the committee, however, that the most vulnerable children were not gaining any advantage from the system of tribunals. They had never dealt with groups such as children in care, and ASTNS wants tribunals to cover all children of school age, rather than only special needs children.