It is every child’s right, under article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to have their voices heard in decisions that affect them.
To date children with special needs have not been able to assert this right fully as they were prevented from appealing to the Special Educational Need Tribunal for Wales (SENTW). However this situation has changed, children and young people across Wales will now be able to participate in decisions that affect them by making their own appeal and claim to SENTW.
This process is not about pitching children’s rights against parents’ rights. Children and young people can be their own best evidence for describing their circumstances and determining their needs. Wherever possible, they should be able to participate in all aspects of the SEN process, including making their own appeal and claim.
The Education (Wales) Measure 2009 is a pioneering piece of legislation that makes provision for children in Wales to have a right of appeal in respect of special educational needs (SEN) and the right to make a claim of disability discrimination in schools, to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales (‘SENTW’) themselves.
Pilot projects were carried out in Carmarthenshire and Wrexham with both trialling a different approach; Carmarthenshire chose to focus on improving communication with a family focussed approach while Wrexham chose to engage with young people through a rights based model supporting the increased involvement of children and young people and developing procedures and materials to encourage the increased participation of children and young people in decision making.
Given the positive findings of the evaluation report, the new rights and duties will come into force across Wales in January 2015.
To see the evaluation report click here
Consequently, from January 2015, children and young people in Wales will be able to:
- Appeal to SENTW certain decisions made by their local authority about their special educational needs
- Bring a claim about disability discrimination
The appeal and claim rights are identical to those that already exist for parents/carers. This does not affect the parental right to make an appeal and claim. It simply means that children and young people now have the same rights as their parents/carers to make their own appeal or claim.
The law recognises that not all children will feel sufficiently able to make an appeal or claim. In this situation a case friend can act on behalf of a child to make an appeal or claim to us at SENTW.
The Case Friend
A Case friend is a person who knows the child or young person well. It can be someone in the family or someone like a teacher or social worker or advocate. A young person can make an appeal on their own or with the help of a case friend. A case friend can help and support the child or young person in a number of ways by:
- avoiding or sorting out disagreements with the local authority using dispute resolution arrangements, such as SNAP Cymru’s Service
- discussing the issues with the child or young person and deciding whether or not to make an appeal
- supporting the child or young person to complete the appeal application and sending it to SENTW, or receiving information about the appeal
- Ensuring the child or young person’s wishes and views are represented at hearings, and advising the child or young person on the progress and outcome of an appeal
SENTW staff with the help of children and young people have produced clear and accessible information for young people, parents/carers and case friends which can be found on SENTW’s website.
SENTW have also produced a video to help children and young people through the hearing process and to show what happens at a tribunal hearing. This video is also helpful for anyone that is going to a tribunal hearing.
Due to SNAP Cymru’s position as an impartial, independent and trusted service across Wales we are working closely with children and young people, families, SENTW and local authorities to develop partnerships which will put the needs of the child at the centre of the process and provide accurate information on legislative requirements, local policy, practice and provision to all parties.
Experienced SNAP Cymru Family and Young People’s officers will be available to provide neutral, impartial advice guidance and support to empower young people to:
- fully participate in the planning and decision making which affects them
- to resolve disputes at an early stage
- to provide case friend support and advocacy where necessary