Resolving disputes and mediation

It is impossible to avoid situations where for whatever reason someone is not happy with something that has happened. In the majority of cases it is possible to sort it out through a phone call, email or meeting. This is called an informal process. Just because it is informal does not mean whatever is agreed cannot be recorded or does not have to be done.

In some cases however the law recognises that there is a need to make a complaint about something and all organisations have policies in place to explain how this should happen.

If your child has special educational needs the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS), formerly the Parent Partnership, can help you with raising things both formally and informally. 

Informal processes

If you are unhappy with something it is advisable to begin by speaking to someone about it, in person or by phone or email. In school or another educational setting this could be a teacher, the Head of Year or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo). If it is about something to do with the local authority or health service you will have the name of the person you normally see or speak to and you can discuss it with them or ask to speak to their manager. In most situations this should resolve the situation.

It is possible to deal with a concern more formally without making a complaint. You can do this by writing or emailing your concerns to the service manager explaining you are not making a formal complaint but raising something with them that you would like them to investigate and get back to you about. By putting it in writing there is a record but it does not trigger the formal complaints process.

Raising a concern informally does not mean it should not be taken less seriously and going through the informal steps does not stop you going through the complaints process if you are still unhappy with the result.

Formal complaints processes

Local authority - if you’re not happy with a service you’ve received from the local authority, there is a formal complaints process.  View our complaints processes. If you are unhappy with a decision made by the local authority about your request for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans, or the content of your son or daughter’s EHC Plan there is a mediation and tribunal process.

Health services - information on how to comment or complain about NHS services is available on NHS Choices -  You may also wish to contact Healthwatch Cambridgeshire or Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) for advice.

Early years providers - if you are not happy with the support your child is getting at their nursery, pre-school or childminder, talk to your child’s key person, SENCo or manager in the first instance. For all registered providers, formal complaints are made to Ofsted.

Schools and colleges - if you are unhappy with something at your child’s school, talk to their class teacher, head of year, tutor or SENCO first, to try and sort the problem out as early as possible.  If you are not satisfied with the school’s response you can use their complaints procedure. Every school, further education and sixth form college must have a complaints policy. Check the school’s/ college's  website or ask for a copy. Further details can be found on Gov UK