Birmingham City Council

Additional support for parents

People and organisations supporting parents

There is a range of support for parents with children who have special educational needs:

Independent parental supporters

Disagreement resolution service

SEN Tribunal

Disability Discrimination

Independent Parental Supporters

An Independent Parental Supporter (IPS) is someone who volunteers to provide support to parents of children with special educational needs. All parents, if they wish, can have access to an IPS.

The SEN Parent Partnership Service is responsible for recruiting and training volunteers.

IPS volunteers can be parents, teachers or representatives from voluntary organisations, who are independent of the Local Authority (LA) and decision-makers.

If you would like to be put in contact with an Independent Parental Supporter, or if you would like to volunteer to become an IPS yourself, please contact the SEN Parent Partnership Service.

Disagreement Resolution Service

The SEN Parent Partnership Service can help to prevent difficulties from developing into formal disagreements.

There are, inevitably, times when parents are confused about the SEN procedures, or when there are disagreements between parents and the LA.

The SEN Parent Partnership gives advice and support to parents at these times, and can get information for you, explain procedures or help you put your case to the LA. Partnership members can accompany you to meetings, help with correspondence and negotiate with the SEN Assessment Service (SENAS).

Parents can contact the Parent Partnership at any time for advice.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

You have the right to appeal to an independent Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) if you are dissatisfied with the LA’s decision on a request for Statutory Assessment or about a Statement of Special Educational Needs. Appeals must be made within two months of the LA decision.

It is anticipated that any disputes with the LA can be discussed and resolved, and there are arrangements for referral Disagreement Resolution Service. This does not interfere with your legal right to appeal against a decision.

The SENDIST is made up of a legally qualified Chair and two other members with knowledge of special educational needs. Any SENDIST hearing is held locally. The hearings are informal and you can be represented at the hearing by an advisor, a friend or a lawyer. Both you and the LA are allowed to take witnesses to the hearing.

More information is available from the SENDIST web site.

Disability Discrimination

School and other educational facilities are subject to the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act. It is unlawful to discriminate against a disabled pupil.

Discrimination is defined as: treating a person less favourably for a reason relating to his disability, where this treatment would not apply to others and this treatment cannot be justified.

For the purposes of this legislation, a disabled person is defined as: someone who has a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Because of this definition, children with special educational needs are not necessarily defined as "disabled".

Discrimination will be unlawful in relation to:

• education and associated services provided to pupils;

• the arrangements for determining admissions to schools; and

• exclusion – temporary or permanent – from school.

There is no requirement for a school to make any physical alterations to premises or to provide auxiliary aids.

LAs must prepare accessibility strategies, aimed at increasing the extent of participation in a school's curriculum and improving the physical environment of schools.

Complaints of disability discrimination will generally be heard by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) although cases concerning admissions and permanent exclusions will be heard by Independent Appeals Panels.

The SENDIST, if it finds discrimination, can order any remedy it thinks appropriate but cannot award any financial compensation.

More information is available from the SENDIST web site.