The following explanation and information has been taken from the HM Courts & Tribunal Service SEND23 Working Document Guidance
What is a ‘working document’?
A working document is a copy of the final statement, on which both parties have worked to show the changes to the wording that they want or can agree, as well as those issues which the Tribunal must decide on the day of the final hearing.
Who does what?
Usually, because the LA has prepared the final statement electronically, they prepare the first draft, after they have seen the Notice of Appeal. They then send it to the parents who can consider it and decide whether they agree with it. The parents can amend it to show the changes they are prepared to agree and to highlight those which are still not agreed before sending it back to the LA for further consideration.
What happens next?
No time is set aside for the parties to negotiate on the day of the hearing so the working document must be considered, prepared and distributed before this. The sooner the process starts the better. If at all possible, the LA should start the process when it submits its response to the appeal, and send to the parents a copy of the first working document with its response.
The working document is sent to the Tribunal in advance of the hearing so that they are aware of the detailed wording in dispute. Sometimes the options preferred by the two parties are brief and immediately clear to the reader. On other occasions the issues are more complex and/or lengthy and the working document may be confusing unless the document is carefully drafted.
The Tribunal recommends a standard key to the document which will show each party’s position:
Make sure the key is included in the working document.
|Normal type||Original Final EHC Plan|
|Underlined type/||Amendments/deletions agreed by both parties|
|Bold type||Parents’ proposed amendments|
|Parents’ proposed deletions|
|Italic type||LA’s proposed amendments|
|LA’s proposed deletion|
If specific wording is derived from written evidence contained in the tribunal bundle, include a reference to the page or pages but avoid footnotes.
Do not send every copy prepared during the course of negotiations. The Tribunal only needs the last copy of the working document.
The Tribunal will require an electronic and hard copy of the working document.
These should arrive at least ten working days before the final hearing date.
For the Hearing
The local authority should email the final agreed working document to the tribunal at least 10 working days before the hearing.
If the wording changes after that deadline, the local authority must:
- email the new version to the tribunal and the other party
- bring 5 paper copies of it to the hearing, so it can be added to the parties’ and tribunal’s bundles
Before the Appeal Hearing, the court may ask you and the LA to write a Position Statement, especially if there have been a number of options offered or considerations made since the appeal was first submitted. Position statements can be a helpful way of getting your points across to the judge and the LA clearly and concisely, (and can be helpful if you are nervous about speaking in court).
It helps the Judge have a clearer understanding before the hearing about the remaining issues and what has been tried to resolve them.
What to include in a position statement
A Position Statement should be a short document of 1 to 2 sides of A4 paper.
You should put a heading at the top of your position statement containing useful information about the case, such as the case number/ Ref, yours and the other names and the date and time of the court hearing. Including this information at the top of your position statement will ensure that the court staff and the judge know which case the position statement is for.
These are the kinds of things you may wish to include in a position statement:
- What has happened since the last hearing / Conversation with the Tribunal (for example, documents you have sent to the court, documents you have received from the LA and professionals, any documents the LA were supposed to send to you which you have not received)?
- If you have not complied with any tribunal directions then provide a short explanation (a direction is when the court asks you do something such as finalise the working document )
- Any tribunal directions that the other party (the local authority for example) has failed to comply with
- What directions do you want the court to make at the hearing? (i.e. to direct the LA to consult with a therapist of education setting)
- What outcome do you want?
It may sometimes help to write a chronological list, especially where a lot of dates are involved.
Things to remember:
- Keep it short and concise
- Keep it factual
- Keep points easily identifiable
It can also be useful to have a copy to read from when you attend the hearing as this will help you explain clearly and quickly where you believe things stand and what you want to happen.