Children and Young People Now reports that satutory requirements on council provision of home-to-school transport should be reviewed, with current spending of £1bn a year “unjustifiable” in light of ongoing cuts to early help services, the vice president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has said.
Stuart Gallimore, who is due to take over as president of the organisation in April 2018, said that owing to the statutory nature of home-to-school transport requirements, other than ensuring it is provided as efficiently as possible, it is an area of saving that is not open to children’s services leaders.
He said that, in light of the ongoing squeeze on finances, and the fact that the Local Government Association estimates that councils will face a £2bn funding gap to support vulnerable children by 2020, home-to-school transport is “an area ripe for review”.
“Surely this is an area ripe for review when we consider all that has changed since the legislation was passed in 1944, placing a responsibility on local authorities to get children to school,” Mr. Gallimore said.
“Clearly, there will always be children with additional needs where this transport is vital but in the current economic climate, this cannot be a level of universal expenditure that can be justified.”
Councils are currently required to make transport arrangements for all children who live beyond two miles of their school, if below the age of eight, or beyond three miles of their school, if aged between 8 and 16.
They must also make transport arrangements for children who “cannot reasonably be expected to walk to school” because of mobility problems or health and safety issues related to special educational needs (SEN) or disability, unless the child could “reasonably be expected to walk if accompanied”.
He added that: “In this age of austerity is it right that we take no account of household income or in some instances pay parents to take their own children to school because it is cheaper than sending a taxi to meet a duty that has been unchanged for over 70 years?”
Do you think parents from your area would accept payment for helping with transport? Insurance issues? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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