Parents criticise school transport cuts consultation
‘WE HAVE TO GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO BE HEARD’
A COUNCIL consultation into plans to cut school transport has been criticised for not being accessible for parents who have children with special educational needs (SEND).
Mum Sarah Hodges told members of Bucks County Council’s (BCC) children’s select committee on November 27 that she struggled to attend the evening consultation sessions as it is difficult to arrange care for her daughter.
BCC launched a consultation on the overhaul of the service in October after growing pressures saw the authority bust its school transport budget by £1.3 million.
The cuts could mean parents of young people aged 16 to 18 with special needs may have to pay for their child’s travel.
Other potential changes include scrapping free transport arrangements for pupils travelling from Iver to The Chalfonts Community College and Ivinghoe to Cottesloe School, in Wing, as well as using more public transport services.
Addressing the committee, Ms Hodges said: “All the drop in times are currently in the evening.
“They were from 7pm to 9pm. I have a child that has special needs and I find it very hard to get care in the evening.
“It would be nice if they were offered during the day the consultation, the same as the early help consultations and the short break consultations. There didn’t seem to be any special needs consultation for special needs children, as advised on October 22 in the cabinet meeting.”
Cabinet member of children’s services Mike Appleyard said further sessions have been arranged specifically for parents of children with SEND, however concerns were raised that parents were not given enough notice.
Councillor for Penn Wood and Old Amersham Isobel Darby said: “A consultation is nothing new to this authority.
“I really would hope that we could actually be good at consulting and it concerns me.
“If you really want to talk to people you have got to give them notice.
“This isn’t the first time we have done a consultation, so please can we get it right and please can you actually consider the people who are going to be affected.
“The people we want to hear from – we may not like what they are going to say – but we have to give them the chance to have their voice heard.”
Cllr Appleyard said the council always planned to hold separate meetings on the cuts for parents with SEND children, however admitted this may not have been made clear.
Director of education at BCC Sarah Callaghan added: “We have done 13 sessions and we have another two scheduled sessions which is quite considerable.
“We have already had nearly 3,000 responses, and we know those responses, when we have looked at them, that SEND parents are well represented in those responses. I think the fact we have had such a strong response suggest people have been made aware of the consultation and we have spoken to a number of parents at the sessions who have children with SEND.”
There will be no changes to arrangements for pupils who are eligible for free school travel, according to the council.
A report is due to be presented to BCC’s cabinet in March before a decision is made.
Parents may have to pay to get children with special needs to school