Disability conciliation service

A brief guide for education providers

This leaflet gives a brief introduction to the Disability Conciliation Service (DCS). It aims to provide disabled people with an outline of the Service, in terms of:

  • what issues the Service covers
  • who runs the Service
  • what conciliation means
  • why use the Service
  • how the process operates
  • what happens if the process doesn’t work
  • what are the benefits of conciliation.

What issues does the Disability Conciliation Service cover?

The primary role of the DCS is to liase between disabled people and those organisations defined as providers within the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Education providers are covered by Part IV of the DDA.

In September 2002, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was extended to cover every aspect of education. The duties make it unlawful to discriminate, without justification, against disabled students and prospective students, in all aspects of college or university life. The principle behind this legislation is that wherever possible disabled people should have the same opportunities as non-disabled people in their access to education.

Ultimately, disabled people who believe that they have been discriminated against may take their case to a court of law – but this may be a costly, time-consuming and confrontational process. Conciliation provides a real alternative for both parties.

Who runs the DCS?

The DCS is an independent service, funded by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), and run by Mediation UK.

What is conciliation?

Conciliation is a way of resolving disputes which helps those involved to reach agreement with the help of an impartial third party: the conciliator. Conciliation is a ‘win/ win’ approach and is about finding a solution which satisfies everyone.

Why use the DCS?

Some of the benefits of conciliation are that:

  • it is free of charge – there are no court fees to consider
  • education providers willing to reach a negotiated settlement are likely to be viewed more favourably by potential education users, particularly disabled people
  • a negotiated outcome is more likely to be satisfactory to both parties
  • it can take less time than a court case

How does the process operate?

Cases will be referred to the DCS by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) – the public body set up to oversee the Disability Discrimination Act. The DCS is not open directly to the general public; this is because the DRC must establish that there is justifiable legal basis for taking a case, and that conciliation is the best way forward.

The DCS will then discuss the problem with the disabled person and the education provider and attempt to provide a solution. The process is entirely voluntary, and may be stopped at any time by either party.

What happens if conciliation is unsuccessful?

If conciliation is unsuccessful, a disabled person may take their case to court if they wish to do so. It is important to realise that the conciliation process is confidential. Information about discussions which took place during the process would not be admissible in subsequent court action.

The benefits of conciliation

The DCS provides an opportunity to resolve complaints relating to the DDA 1995 outside of the courts. It is fully accessible and a highly effective way of resolving issues.

If you require this publication in an alternative format and/or language please contact the Helpline to discuss your needs. You can contact the DRC Helpline by voice, text, fax or post. You can speak to an operator at any time between 08:00 and 20:00, Monday to Friday. You can also email the DRC Helpline from our Helpline page 

Telephone 08457 622 633
Textphone 08457 622 644
Fax   08457 778 878

Post  DRC Helpline
MID 02164
Stratford upon Avon
CV37 9BR