Surge in Appeals Against EHCP Decisions for Special Needs Children Delays Vital Support, Calls for Reform


The number of appeals against decisions made by local authorities regarding Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCPs) for children and young persons with special educational needs has surged to an unprecedented 13,700, as revealed by the latest data from the Ministry of Justice. This significant increase has raised concerns, particularly expressed by the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel De Souza, who warns that this surge in appeals is further delaying essential support for children.


In the academic year 2022/23, HMCTS tribunals recorded a staggering 14,000 registered SEN appeals, marking a notable 24% increase compared to the previous year. This trend of rising appeals has persisted since 2014.


What’s more, the data indicates that a striking 98% of cases were found to be at least partially in favour of the appellant. This suggests a low success rate for local authorities in these cases, potentially reflecting inadequacies in their decision-making processes.


Breaking down the registered appeals by type, it is noteworthy that 28% of these appeals were made against local authorities’ refusals to conduct an Education, Health, and Care needs assessment – a essential initial step in obtaining an EHCP.


A concerning pattern emerges as well, with nearly half (45%) of the appeals relating to autistic children and young people, despite only 32% of pupils with EHCPs having autism. This discrepancy suggests that autistic children may face particular challenges in accessing the necessary support.


Dame Rachel De Souza underscores the need for a shift in approach, advocating for early identification and support for children’s additional needs. She calls for “radical reform” of the Special Educational Needs system, expressing extreme concern about the current lack of support for children with special needs. While acknowledging the government’s publication of a SEND implementation plan, she insists that further action is required to bring about essential changes for families in need of support. These statistics shed light on the pressing issue of access to education and care for children with special educational needs and the imperative to address this challenge promptly and effectively.


The MoJ’s Statistics can be found here:


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