James Betts, a Solicitor from Irwin Mitchell LLP has hit out at Buckinghamshire County Council's decision to scrap funding for special educational needs children home to school transport.
Buckinghamshire Disability Service have called the cuts: "‘ill-thought-through’ and ‘potentially very damaging’ for local families"
James said: "Before setting transport policies local authorities are legally required to ensure they have properly considered the impact of the policy. In particular, local authorities must consider:
- whether the policy gives rise to a breach in the human rights of disabled children and children with special educational needs.
- whether the policy is in breach of the local authority’s duty to ensure learners of sixth form age are able to access the education and training of their choice and if support for access is requested, this request will be assessed and provided where necessary.
- whether the local authority has complied with the Public Sector Equality duty (as the council are legally required to have regard to the need to, for example, eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity)
- whether a proper consultation has been carried out the those that would potentially be impacted upon; and
- whether the Council has considered all of the relevant information.”
James added: "Any policy that operates a strict rule to seek a contribution to costs without any flexibility to take into account the particular needs of the child will potentially be unlawful.
"At Irwin Mitchell we are seeing more and more local authorities seek to introduce new transport policies that disproportionately impact on those most vulnerable such as young people with special educational needs.
"These types of decisions can be challenged by judicial review but there are very strict time frames and anyone wishing to challenge the decision needs to act and seek advice quickly."
Buckinghamshire County Council however, denied that the consultation and cuts were unlawful.
In response to these claims, they sent us a link to a report entitled:'Buckinghamshire County Council Home to School Transport Policy'
You can view the report here: https://democracy.buckscc.gov.uk/documents/s130429/Appendix%201%20for%20Home%20to%20School%20Transport.pdf
A Statement from Buckinghamshire County Council said: "The Council will continue to support children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), and their parents, with home to school transport and post-16 travel assistance.
"Further support will come through our expanded offer of independent travel training for young people with SEND and by helping families to access a bursary from colleges (if they are eligible).
"Families will also be able to appeal to our Transport Exceptions Panel which will consider individual cases where the particular needs of a young person may impact on their ability to travel independently."