Q. Is the way a remote hearing conducted unfair if it fails to take account of the effects of a person’s impairments?

A. Possibly, according to Upper Tribunal Judge Ward in TC and BW v LB Islington [2021] UKUT 196 (AAC)

The appellants, TC and BW, are the parents of B. They had appealed to the First-tier Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal against the respondent’s decision not to issue an EHC plan following an EHC needs assessment. Their appeal did not succeed. They subsequently sought permission to appeal, and this was given by a First-tier Tribunal judge on 17 November 2020 who noted:

“the panel’s decision does not make any indication of how it adjusted its conduct of the hearing to accommodate [TC’s special needs arising from her hearing impairment]. Nor does the decision comply with the Senior President of Tribunals’ instruction that the parties [sic – this must be an error for “the judge”] must record that the parties were asked whether they had been able to participate effectively in the hearing. These points have the potential of supporting the allegations [that the fairness of the hearing was undermined].”

Upper Tribunal Judge Ward decided to dismiss the appeal. The decision and reasons are reasonably lengthy and can be found  HERE

It is suggested that the key point here is that, should any participant in a hearing  – in the SEND Tribunal or anywhere else for that matter – genuinely believe they will be substantially disadvantaged during the proceedings because of the effects of a physical or mental  impairment, they should immediately contact the relevant court or tribunal informing them how they are impaired and what, adjustments, in their opinion, should be made to remove any disadvantage.

2nd September 2021


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