Council under fire over Special Educational Needs transport cuts


By Matthew Jackson

PARENTS with Special Educational Needs children will have to pay £660 from September for transport to take their children to school.

Executive members on Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) have agreed to reduce provisions for transport to school and college for young people aged 16 to 19 with special educational needs(SEN). The effect is that  parents will have to pay to take their children to school or college  from September.

The council says the move is ‘tough’ but necessary because it has to make savings within the children’s budget because of the large number of borough children going into care.

Cllr Mark Stocks, Conservative executive member for children and young people, said: “I fully appreciate the impact this could have on some of the families who have vulnerable children.

“I do fully appreciate that, but we do have a very difficult situation. We have currently 447 children in care who don’t have the loving, caring, supportive parents that you all are and we have a duty, a responsibility, to look after those children to the best of our abilities and unfortunately that comes at a cost.

“The reality is we have had to make some tough decisions and this I have to say is one of the toughest.”

The average cost for SEN transport is £5,200 and the council will still be looking to subsidise in excess of £4,000 per student. There will be extra reductions for low income families who will be charged £330 instead of £660.

Labour have called the decision a ‘kick in the teeth’ to families
and will result in less (SEN) children continuing their education after 16.

Cllr David Armstrong, Labour’s spokesman for children and young people, said: “This is a cut too far. You are proposing to require the families of SEN young people to make a significant contribution towards school transport. We need to be absolutely clear, the decision you are making is political. You could, and I would argue, should find the money elsewhere.

“To put additional cost on them is a real kick in the teeth. This is a special group that we should bend over backwards to protect.”

Even with the new cuts the council will be spending in excess of £7million on transport after facing savings of more than £9million from services for children and young people.

Opposition Labour group leader Cllr Justin Madders, who also spoke at the meeting, said: “The legacy of your decision will be SEN children not continuing their education beyond the age of 16 because they have no choice. 75 per cent of the respondents to your own consultation disagreed with this charge.”

The decision has now been called in by Labour for the children and young people’s scrutiny committee next month.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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