Sheffield City Council is proposing to charge parents of students over the age of 16 for SEN transport.
At the moment, post-16 students in Sheffield who are unable to travel to school or college independently because of their disability receive SEN transport by minibus or taxi free of charge. This service, however, is discretionary, meaning that local authorities are not legally required to provide it.
In the wake of swingeing budget cuts, most local authorities have reduced the discretionary services they provide, and several areas are now charging families for post-16 SEN transport.
Sheffield City Council is proposing to charge £540 per year for students who are educated within South Yorkshire, and £700 per year for those who are educated further afield. Families would be able to spread the cost, e.g. by paying in monthly instalments. They would also have the option of taking their young person to and from school or college themselves and receive a travel allowance based on the distance.
The proposed charges do not reflect the full cost of SEN transport, which is much higher; they are based on the equivalent public transport cost paid by non-disabled students (e.g. cost of a termly rail, tram and buss pass).
Sheffield City Council is also proposing to scrap the discretionary zero fare bus pass for post-16 students in low income families.
The Council expects that families will use a grant called the 16-19 Bursary Fund to cover the costs of transport, books and other course-related costs. This grant pays up to £1,200 per year. To qualify, you must either have a household income below £16,190 per year, OR your young person must receive Income Support (or Universal Credit) in their own right, OR or they must get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and DLA/PIP.
Have your say
The Council has sent a paper questionnaire to all families with students in Y11 – Y14 who may be affected by the changes. There is also an online questionnaire. The surveys are designed for families who will be directly affected by the changes. If you will not be directly affected but would still like to give your views, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0114 2735611.
The consultation closes on 24 March 2017.
The Sheffield Parent Carer Forum has received a number of questions from parents. Unfortunately Sheffield City Council officers have informed us that they are unable to answer them during the consultation period. We will submit a Sheffield Parent Carer Forum response highlighting our concerns, and we encourage all our members to do the same.
The questions were:
- Schools and colleges usually require good attendance and behaviour from students in receipt of the Discretionary 16-19 Bursary. What happens when a student has poor behaviour or attendance as a result of their disability?
- To qualify for the 16-19 Vulnerable Student Bursary, a disabled learner needs to get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and either DLA or PIP. Families can’t claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit at the same time as their child claims ESA. What should families do if claiming ESA would leave them worse off?
- How much would the travel allowance be? (for parents who take their young person to/from school or college)
- Would SEN transport be withdrawn if parents refuse to pay the charges? If an EHCP states that a child has to go to particular school, where does it leave parents and council legally?
- What is the legal position if SEN transport is mentioned in the provision section of an EHC plan?
- Why have you based your calculations on the cost of a termly bus pass (like the Student Term TravelMaster), rather than 80p per journey over 39 weeks, which presumably is what most non-disabled students pay?