SEND families told to pay more for transport

Birmingham City Council
Taxis and minibuses will no longer routinely be offered to teenagers of college and sixth form age [BBC]

Parents of teenagers with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are to be told to pay more for transport to college or sixth form.

Birmingham City Council has confirmed cuts to its special needs transport budget, with taxis and minibuses no longer set to be routinely offered to those aged 16 to 18 from September.

The council-funded services, mainly used to transport pupils to special needs schools miles away from their homes, will remain for younger children.

In am email to families, the local authority acknowledged the changes would be "difficult for some families" and said it had given as much notice as possible.

The cash-strapped council declared itself effectively bankrupt last September by issuing a section 114 notice, before signing off on a wave of "devastating" cuts to address a £300m budget deficit.

The cuts, which have attracted protests, include slashed funding for some of the city's libraries.

And the Children's Young People and Families department needs to find £51.5m savings in the next financial year.

Under the transport changes, support for 16 to 18-year-old's will be provided through a personal transport budget (PTB) or a pass for use on public transport.

But families will be told to pay more, with their contribution deducted from the budget, increasing from £780 to £1,028 per academic year.

Low-income families will still pay £390 a year towards their travel arrangements.

'Significant financial burden'

A public consultation on the review of the Labour-run council’s travel assistance policy was launched earlier this year, with the authority admitting its proposal “involves a reduction on what is offered”.

“That is not something the council wishes to do but rather considers itself driven to by the current financial situation,” it said.

The council also admitted the proposed increase in parental contribution may impose a “significant financial burden," especially for families with more than one child, potentially discouraging pupils from pursuing higher education.

Conservative councillor Adam Higgs, said: “Every child, regardless of disability, should be given the opportunity and encouragement to thrive in educational attainment.

“This is a very emotive subject on all sorts of fronts for families and carers,” added Labour councillor Jayne Francis, during a cabinet meeting in April.

“But, I was pleased to see we’re still providing the same level of support to children of compulsory school age and for our young people aged 19 plus."

Council leader John Cotton, previously blamed the government for causing wider financial issues at local council level, but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted the authority had mismanaged its finances.

This news was gathered by the Local Democracy Reporting Service which covers councils and other public service organisations.

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