Free transport for special needs pupils in North Yorkshire faces consultation

A cut of up to £2 million from a free transport scheme for special needs and disabled pupils across North Yorkshire is to go before public consultation.

Disability Action Yorkshire have said students must still be supported
Disability Action Yorkshire have said students must still be supported

North Yorkshire County Council this week gave approval to open up the potential changes to the home to school transport policy for comments. The scheme is used by pupils aged 16 and over.

Pointing to a rising population with special needs or disabilities and a lack of government funding the county council said it has held off as long as possible but the cost of the scheme could reach £30 million by 2025.

Coun Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills said: “We are one of the few councils left which continues to provide free post-16 home to school transport for those with special needs or disabilities but as austerity continues our decisions get tougher.”

He added:“We have held out for free transport provision for those with special educational needs or disability for as long as possible, but our budgetary pressures are unrelenting.”The county council has made £152 million in savings overall so far but will be cutting a further £43 million by 2019/2020, 34 per cent of the overall budget.

Four options are on the table for the consultation, first looking at removal of the free service for 16 to 18 year olds from September 2018. Current students would however receive transport to complete their studies. Post-19 year olds could have transport needs acknlowedged, recognised through adult social assessments.Costs of the parental transport allowance could be increased from 30 to 45p per mile for those aged 16 and above where there is no alternative to the local authority. Finally a ‘enhanced mileage rate’ could be introduced based on need.

Charity group, Disability Action Yorkshire Group, has said whatever outcome the views of pupils and their families would need to be considered.Chief Executive, Jackie Snape said: “We would hope that any decision would include a structured plan to increase supporting students towards greater travel independence which in turn supports progression into adulthood.”