Special Education Needs children school travel cuts "ill-thought out and damaging", say charity

Andrew Clark, BuDS Chair of Trustees, added: These changes do seem to be ill-thought-through and potentially very damaging for Bucks families."
Andrew Clark, BuDS Chair of Trustees, added: These changes do seem to be ill-thought-through and potentially very damaging for Bucks families."

Buckinghamshire County Council approved plans that mean they will now charge families of special educational needs children from September 2019 onwards for their school travel.

Parents will now be asked to contribute to their child’s travel costs – with charges being enforced based on the distance the pupil lives from their school from September this year.

BCC now hopes to encourage more pupils to travel to school independently on public routes.

They are currently engaging in a program to train SEND to use public transport, however this is fraught with issues.

Andrew Clark, BuDS Chair of Trustees, added: “These changes do seem to be ill-thought-through and ‘potentially very damaging for Bucks families.

"We urge the Council to go back and look at them again, especially in the light of all the other cuts to services which are also impacting families with a disabled member”

Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BUDS) have raised several points of concern on the new proposals, including:

- Will bus drivers and their assistants know enough about disabled children and young people, especially those with invisible disabilities and potentially challenging behaviour?

- How will they ensure that vulnerable children will remain safe on public transport?

Buds also suggest that this new arrangement will place a massive burden on parents and carers, and questioned whether they will be provided with additional support.

They have also voiced concerns that this move will "lead to many more disabled children and young people not attending school regularly" and "may even stop children for attending school completely."

Ann Hedges, BuDS Trustee, said: “We appreciate the financial pressures that County have, but this change will massively increase the burden on parents and carers, and cause knock-on changes such as increasing the need to support families and causing disabled people to drop out of education.

"The cuts seem to be very short-sighted and done without thinking about the long-term implications not just for disabled people but County itself”.

The plans include:

Charging for transport for pupils with SEND aged over 16 – A contribution to the cost of home to school transport for children with SEND (who are older than 16) will be introduced from September 2019.

This will replace the free transport offer currently in place.

BCC say "The costs for SEND transport have increased by over £3m in the last five years (from around £6m to £9m). Students with SEND who attend college can apply for a bursary to assist with costs."

Mike Appleyard, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “These changes have been very carefully considered and mean transport charges will be applied in a fair and consistent way to families across the county.

“Most people will be unaffected by the changes but we want to ensure anyone who is will be managed in as fair and considerate a way as possible.

“We would, of course, prefer not to cause any inconvenience to families currently using home to school transport services. However, our costs have been rising with increased demand. If we are to continue to offer a high quality service which is safe and sustainable for our children to use in the future, we need to change the way we do things.”

Have you been affected? Email thomas.bamford@jpress.co.uk or call 01296619745