Wasting money, wasting potential – our new report

We’re thrilled to share our latest report ‘Wasting money, wasting potential’ in collaboration with Pro Bono Economics.

The research reveals that more than 11,000 SEND tribunals – contesting decisions by local authorities – were registered in England in 2021-22, an increase of 29% on the previous year.

These tribunals were brought by parents, carers and young people disputing council decisions about an education, health and care plan (EHCP) for a child or young person, a legal document issued by a local authority which identifies a child’s educational, health and social needs and sets out the support that will be provided to meet those needs.

Among its key findings, the report found that:

  • 11,052 SEND tribunals were registered in England in 2021-22, up 29% on the previous year – meaning one SEND tribunal was registered for every six new EHCPs that were issued.
  • 96% of SEND tribunal hearings were won by parents, carers and young people in 2021-22.
  • £59.8mn of public money was wasted on lost SEND tribunals in 2021-22 – costs of £46.2mn to local authorities and £13.6mn to the courts.
  • 9,960 places in SEN units in mainstream schools could be funded each year with the money wasted on lost SEND tribunals.
  • Nearly 3,500 disputed EHCP cases were withdrawn or conceded before they got to tribunal hearing in 2021-22. If public sector staff spend as much time preparing for appeals that are registered but not heard, PBE estimates that total public sector spending on SEND tribunals in 2021-22 could be as high as £80mn.

Following the findings the DCP developed a list of recommendations for Government to tackle the misuse of taxpayers money. The recommendations are as follows:

  • Redirect and ring-fence resources from tribunals into early information, advice and support for young people and parents navigating the system, including additional funding for SENDIASS.  
  • Government to develop training for local council SEND officers and SENCOs on the legal framework to improve decision making and resolution at the earliest opportunity. 
  • Improve the effectiveness of mediation by: 
    • Investing in training for SEND officers and decision makers on how to support effective mediation.  
    • Identifying and disseminating good practice of ‘voluntary way forward’ meetings delivered by trained SEND officers 
    • Developing accreditation for quality of mediation services (in addition to accreditation of individual mediators)  
  • Improve data collection on mediation and appeals, to include waiting times for cases and more information on cases that are withdrawn/conceded before hearings 
  • This data, including Tribunal outcomes, to be included in the SEND accountability framework, including in the data dashboard and the SEND/CQC Joint Area inspections, and to be a trigger Government intervention in local areas.

You can find the full report here.

Easy read report available here.