The SEND Tribunal has provided a link to information about how it is responding to the current situation with regards to Covid-19.
If you have an upcoming hearing, then you might want to keep checking this link and you can also sign up for alerts via their website.
The SEND Tribunal has confirmed that hearings will be on paper or by telephone (and, where the technology permits, by video) starting on Monday 23 March 2020.
The SEND Tribunal administration team will send out log in details in advance of the hearing. These will be issued when the Notice of Hearing is issued. Instead of a physical venue you will see dial in or video dial in details with full instructions on how to dial in.
However, as things have moved at such a fast pace over the last few days, some hearings next week may already have received Notices of Hearing and the SEND Tribunal will get instructions out as quickly as possible for those hearings.
From the 30 March 2020, appeals and claims will be prioritised by the judiciary and consideration given to the use of additional approaches including triaging of cases to ensure that decisions are made proportionately.
There may be an option to use a court venue if there is no access to a stable telephone or internet connection but you would need to check this with the SEND Tribunal administration team.
Alternatively, you may be able to agree with the SEND Tribunal and the LA that a paper hearing would be appropriate.
Telephone hearings are via an 0800 number and so should be free from landline or mobile. If a video hearing is suggested and you are concerned that your internet connection is not good enough, ask for a telephone hearing instead.
The Tribunal have asked parties not to call the Tribunal until 2 days before hearings if they haven’t heard anything as, like every public service, they are affected by staff shortages as a result of Covid-19.
With these measures, it is expected that there should be no need to adjourn hearings if the parties are ready to go ahead, even though they may not be able to take place in person.
You can find further guidance on how telephone and video hearings will be used during the Covid-19 outbreak here.
· Contact all your witnesses and anyone else dialling in, in advance, to check whether they have reliable phone or internet connection. If they do not, then let the LA and the Tribunal know as soon as possible.
· If you or anyone else expected to dial-in has caring responsibilities (with many school children now at home, this may well be a concern) alert the LA and the Tribunal to this to discuss what accommodations might be possible.
· Make sure you are sitting somewhere comfortable, quiet and close to charging points.
· If you’re referring to documents in the bundle during a phone or video hearing, double check everyone has the right page as it will be trickier than in person to ensure everyone is looking at the right document.
· Make sure you keep notes as the hearing is going on, so when it’s your turn to talk you can address things raised by others when they were talking.
· Let the judge lead the call. Remember the hearing is still fairly formal and so you should not talk over the judge – but the Tribunal will be understanding of the fact that it will be harder to know who is meant to be talking when!