Council u-turn on SEND transport policy
Legal challenges and threats in this area appear to be flying out the door. We have commented on (and created a short video) Bristol, Surrey, Hackney and considered the recent Leicester judgment. A challenge made earlier this year against Wiltshire Council was granted permission for judicial review, but the Council conceded before it went to Court. There may be many more in the pipeline. It is rightly an area of focus and consultation must be conducted well or you may find a letter before action on your desk.
A council has agreed to withdraw a new policy which led to dozens of teenagers with disabilities being refused school and college transport.
At least 30 families were told they would not get transport from September after Hampshire County Council brought in the new policy for 2019-20.
Solicitors representing 10 families said the authority had withdrawn its policy under threat of court action.
The council said it was now instead “applying the previous policy”.
A spokesperson for the authority said all applications for transport in September were being reviewed and applicants would be contacted shortly.
The council had threatened to withdraw transport last year, but agreed to provide it in response to applications by families.
The families thought the same criteria applied this year but from June they started to receive letters telling them transport would not be offered.
Solicitor Alice Cullingworth, from Irwin Mitchell, said: “The parents we act for are unable to provide transport due to work and other commitments.”
“They were very upset at the prospect of this issue impacting on their children’s wellbeing.”
She said one case involved a 16-year-old boy with autism and a learning disability who had “minimal awareness of road danger” and could not use public transport.
His mother, who did not want to be named, said: “Going to college is so important to my son and we were devastated when we were told no transport support would be provided.”
Irwin Mitchell said the refusals amounted to breaches of the Equality Act and humans rights law, and the families had not been lawfully consulted.
The firm said about 300 post-16 students required home-to-school transport in Hampshire and it had been in contact with families from Fareham, Liss, Farnham, Aldershot, Havant, Yateley, Bordon, Priors Dean, and Southampton.
The council spokesperson added: “We can confirm that a policy, that was in place for post 16 transport for young people with special educational needs for the 2019-20 academic year, has been withdrawn and we are applying the previous policy. “Any changes that may be proposed will be consulted on and published if agreed.”
Article originally appeared on BBC News
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