Coventry City Council is planning to consult on new travel arrangements to support children and young people with SEN to access school and college as independently as possible.
The Council currently provides home to school travel assistance to any young person attending their nearest suitable school if the school is more than 2 miles away for children under 8 and over 3 miles away for young people up to the age of 16.
However, for children and young people with special educational needs, unlike other local authorities, Coventry commonly provides home to school transport for pupils who live significantly closer to the nearest appropriate school, even if they are able to travel independently.
Over-provision can prevent able young people with SEN from developing important independent travel skills that are essential in adult life if they are to be given the opportunity to enjoy their community and enter the world of work.
If approved at Cllr Kevin Maton’s Cabinet Member (Education and Skills) meeting on November 10, then a consultation will run from November 21 to January 13. The feedback will then be analysed before a final decision is made on 7 March 2017.
The proposed changes mean travel assistance decisions would be made on the basis of an individual's needs, beginning with an assumption that the majority of children and young people with SEN can independently travel to school alongside their mainstream peers. This would mirror national policy. If it would be unreasonable to expect a child or young person to travel independently, then appropriate alternative arrangements would be offered.
Cllr Kevin Maton, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “We fully recognise these proposals will have an impact on a number of families who are used to a certain level of help. I believe for many the opportunity to develop independent travel skills will become invaluable and a key part of any changes will be to support people through that development. Many people will remain eligible for help even if these changes are made
“It is clear we are operating in a very different economic climate than when these policies were first introduced. We have over-supplied for a number of years and the hard truth is we must look at ways of saving money while fulfilling our duties.
“I would urge anyone who thinks they might be affected to read the proposals closely and take part in the consultation so we can make these decisions knowing all the facts.”
The consultation will also consider changes to provision for post-16 students.
Currently mainstream students attending 6th Form or College provision travel independently. The proposal for post 16 students with SEN is that the Council would continue to provide travel assistance to 6th forms or college for qualifying students, but would expect students or their parents to make a financial contribution towards those costs.
The Council currently provides travel assistance to 711 children and young people aged 5-16 with SEN and disabilities, we anticipate that the new policy could impact on approximately 118 pupils. The policy does however provide for exceptional circumstances, including families on low income.
The full Cabinet member Report can be found on our website.