The First tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal are part of the new two tier tribunal system, which is a more informal court system that hears civilian disputes
The Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) brought a successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal on costs incurred in a First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) against a local authority. The Special Educational Needs and Disability branch is now part of the Health, Education and Social Care (HESC) Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal.
The Upper Tribunal judge’s decision is important because the judge has now set precedent on what should apply to these sorts of cost applications in the First Tier Tribunal and also offered guidance on best practice.
The decision is also significant for legal aid lawyers who have cases before the First Tier Tribunal and will possibly have broader application in other areas of law that are dealt with by the First Tier Tribunal – such as immigration, asylum seekers, and welfare benefits. The hope is that it will deter local authorities from prolonging appeals that they have no prospects of defending, thereby avoiding further delay to the child or young person from accessing the necessary provisions for their special educational needs.
The case involved CCLC’s Legal Practice Unit’s acting for a parent of a child with special educational needs. Having successfully appealed against various sections of the child’s education, health, and care plan before the First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), an application was made for costs against the respondent local authority for CCLC’s own costs. This is the issue that ultimately came before the Upper Tribunal for a decision.