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Families Taking Legal Action Against Bristol City Council For Send Tripled in 2022

Last year, over 100 families were forced to take legal action against Bristol City Council for educational provision for their child or young person with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (Send).

It’s a number that has tripled on 2021 figures.

In 2021, 37 appeals against the council were lodged to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) – known as Sendist.

This is a tribunal service that handles appeals against local authority decisions around Send. It includes a refusal to assess a child’s needs for an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). It also handles appeals around reassessment, issuing a plan, the changing of a plan, the contents of a plan or maintaining a plan.

In 2021, 29 of those appeals did not make it to tribunal. This was because a staggering 24 were conceded by the council. Four were settled and just 1 was withdrawn.

It was a vast difference to the number of appeals lodged last year in 2022. A total of 118 appeals were lodged by Bristol families forced to take action on behalf of their children.

Of those, Bristol City Council conceded 56 appeals. A further 30 were settled, with only 2 being struck out and just 5 being withdrawn.

Last year, there were 34 appeals lodged against the council’s refusal to start an assessment for an EHCP.

Six were lodged against the council’s refusal to issue a plan after assessment. And, 16 were lodged against the contents of the EHCP.

The statistics for 2023 shows that this year, 54 families had lodged an appeal at Sendist by the end of July.

Although the numbers change daily, there has been at least 30 appeals resolved prior to a hearing date, with the council conceding 27.

Refusal to assess has the highest number of appeals this year, with 17 lodged at Sendist for that reason.

By October last year, the wait time from lodging an appeal to the hearing date at Sendist hit the one year mark. This meant that Send children in Bristol who were in desperate need of an EHCP, provision or a school place had to wait 12 months for the help if the council did not concede in the interim.

The statistics came to light in response to a question from Bristol Send Justice’s Sally Kent, at People Scrutiny Commission last month.

In 2023, we reported that Bristol City Council attempted to allocated £200k in its budget to fight against families taking legal action, despite conceding in the vast majority of cases.

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