The SEND Appeals Service responds to SEND appeals lodged by parents and young people and the Tribunal Officers (TO’s) co-ordinate and lead the Council’s response.
In Surrey there is a Senior Tribunal Officer who manages the Tribunal Officers. Each Tribunal Officer has a geographical area that she or he mainly works in. If numbers vary, the Tribunal Officers may do some appeals work in other Areas.
Very occasionally legal representation may be engaged by the Council – but this is usually where issues of law are complex.
Their contact email for all SEND appeal matters is firstname.lastname@example.org
(This generic email box is used so that if an officer is unwell, or on holiday, the communication is not missed).
The Tribunal Officers are known as the ‘authorised officer’. They:
- manage appeals to SENDIST for the Council
- lead on the resolving appeals, if it is possible
- represent the Council at First Tier SENDIST Tribunal hearings, and also in telephone case management hearing that sometimes take place before the final hearing.
The Tribunal Officers work with:
- the Area SEN Teams
- the SEND Case Officers, and their managers
- professional support services, such as the educational psychologists.
They also decide who will be witnesses for the Council. These may be schools and other settings as well as professional experts.
How do Tribunal Officers work with parents?
Tribunal Officers aim to contact the parent or young person who is making the appeal within the first 2 to 3 weeks after the Council has received information about the appeal.
They prepare the Council’s Grounds of Response to the SEND Tribunal and they will send parents copies of everything before it is sent to the Tribunal.
The Tribunal Officers work with any representatives or witnesses you have, in order to identify where agreement can be reached and where reaching agreement may be difficult or complicated.
The Tribunal Officers are all experienced in the SEND appeals process, preparing the Local Authority’s response, supporting witnesses and representing the LA at hearings.
They have a good understanding and knowledge of:
- SEND decision making – the key factors that lead to robust and sustainable decisions
- The different roles and responsibilities of multi-disciplinary professionals
The stages of the SEND appeal process.
Like most of the teams that work for Surrey, they are working from home at the moment but they meet as a team regularly. They will use MS Teams, Skype, email or the phone to contact you.
When it comes to the appeal hearing:
The Tribunal Officers will send out any supporting documents to assist in preparing papers. They will also send you the Working Document where one is needed. (This is a version of the EHCP where parents and the Council try their best to reach agreement). The Tribunal Officers will prepare the bundle (all the appeal papers from you and the Council) ready for use at your hearing. You will be asked if you want to have an electronic Bundle that you can look at on your tablet or computer or if you want a paper bundle.
What should you expect from the Tribunal Team:
- That they will introduce themselves when they first make contact with you and explain their role
- That they will always be professional and polite
- They will copy you into any correspondence or forms that they send to Tribunal, and you will need to do the same to the Tribunal Officers.
- That you will get all the documentation needed for the appeal by or on the dates given by the Tribunal in your registration letter.
- The Tribunal Officer will hand over to the Area-based SEND Case Officer once the appeal is finished. This includes if a Consent Order is in place, when the Area-based SEND Case Officer will implement the actions.