Anger over school transport charge

Disabled face transport charges
Disabled face transport charges
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Parents of sixth form students with special needs have reacted angrily to plans to charge them for school transport.

Lancashire County Council is set to introduce a £475 annual charge for carrying over-16s to and from schools and colleges from September 2015.

But the suggestion has sparked a bitter response from families, with with more than eight out of 10 condemning the idea during a consultation exercise by County Hall chiefs.

A report which will go before the county’s executive scrutiny committee next week, says: “It is perhaps unsurprising that a high proportion of parent/carers are reluctant to make a financial contribution for a discretionary post-16 transport service that they have enjoyed free of charge for the past six years.

“More than four-fifths of respondents strongly disagree with the proposal.”

The county council sent out a questionnaire to 2,587 parents of young people who currrently get free school transport due to their special needs or disabilities. Only around a quarter responded, with 83 per cent opposing the plan, mainly on the grounds of cost.

Amongst the chief reasons for opposing it were an inability to afford the contribution, complaints that the charge was unfair and a belief that the cost could prevent some young people from going into post-16 education.

Lancashire spends more than £16m a year providing home to school taxis and buses for youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities. The cost per pupil works out at around £5,500.

The council is obliged to provide free transport up to the age of 16. After that the award is discretionary. In December the authority recommended a parental contribution of £475 a year for post-16 young people to help save up to £329,000 a year. In comparison to other councils the figure is said to be “reasonable.” It should have been introduced this year, but has now been put back until 2015/16.