How to complain about a SEND issue

If you’re unhappy with the support your child gets, or a service you've received, learn about your options, including how to make a complaint.

Talk to your provider

If you’re not happy about the support your child gets, or about a service you have received, it is usually best to begin by talking to your provider. This is whoever provides the service.

For example:

  • your child’s school
  • the council’s SEN team
  • your child’s GP surgery
  • social services
  • a charity
  • a company

Raise your concern as soon as you can, and talk to someone in charge. For example, a headteacher, manager, or key worker.

Mediation or advocacy support

If you’re still unhappy after you have done this, you can try mediation or advocacy support. This could help you to find a satisfactory solution quickly without needing to take things further.

Use the following services:

You may also find it helpful to speak to an Amaze SENDIASS adviser. Amaze SENDIASS is an independent, confidential service. They are not an advocacy or mediation service, but do provide information, advice and support around SEND issues.

If you are still unhappy after speaking with your provider – possibly with mediation or advocacy support - you can make a complaint. Or you may choose to make a complaint right away, without speaking to your provider first. This begins a formal process to try to resolve your concern.

Make a complaint

If you want to make a complaint, ask the provider for their complaints policy, or check their website. This should explain what your options are, and what you can expect to happen.

The policy should also tell you if you need to make your complaint within a certain amount of time.

Complain about a council-run or NHS service

Get more information about making a complaint about:

We aim to deal with all complaints in a fair and sensitive way.

Next steps

If you make a complaint about a council-run service but are unhappy with the outcome, you can either:

The Ombudsman can only investigate if the issue can't be dealt with by the SEND Tribunal. You must go all the way through the council’s complaints procedure before you can take your complaint to the Tribunal or Ombudsman.

There are strict time limits. For example, you must appeal to the SEND Tribunal within 2 months of an EHC decision letter. Complaints must be brought to the Ombudsman within 12 months.

Some types of complaints can be brought to other bodies, for example the Department for Education or Ofsted. Pages 246 to 247 of the SEND Code of Practice provide details about who can hear which complaints.

Information and advice

Find more information and advice about making complaints and challenging decisions:

Learn more about your child’s rights: