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Free school transport for special needs reviewed in Derbyshire

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Free school transport for some Derbyshire pupils with special educational needs is having to be reviewed as part of proposals to help Derbyshire County Council save £157m by 2018.

The county council is set to launch a consultation which could see some families with disabled children being asked to pay for their child’s travel to and from their place of learning.

Proposed changes could affect sixth form age students, pre-school age children and young adults aged 19 to 25 with a learning disability assessment.

However, the county council would continue to meet its legal duty to provide free transport for eligible school age pupils with special educational needs or a disability.

Any decision on whether or not to introduce the changes would only be made once a full consultation had been carried out.

Councillor Kevin Gillott, the council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Yet again the council is having to try to balance the books in response to government funding cuts.

“As part of these cuts we have to save £157m by 2018 – that means we will have to cut the amount we spend on providing services for Derbyshire families by a third.

“At a time when so many families are struggling with the cost of living crisis it is really disappointing that we have to consider asking them to pay towards providing transport for their children.”

Plans to consult on the proposed changes are part of a series of consultations called The Derbyshire Challenge outlined in a report to be considered by the county council’s Cabinet on 21st January.

They include:

-Introducing a charge of £349 a year for transport for sixth form age pupils with special educational needs or disabilities. This is the same rate charged to other sixth form transport users.

-A charge of £316 a year for the cost of school transport for pre-school children with special educational needs. However, children from families receiving the maximum Working Tax Credit and entitled to free school meals would be exempt from the charge.

-Young adults aged 19 to 25 with a learning disability assessment would also be charged £349 a year for transport if they started their course before their 19th birthday. For those over 19 when starting their course, free travel would only be given where the council believed it was necessary.

If all the proposed changes were given the go-ahead it could save the authority £191,500 and, if approved, the changes would come into effect from September 2014.

Coun Gillott added: “We have to look at every penny we spend to try to meet these unprecedented cuts and that includes putting our own house in order to make savings.

“We did not want to be in this position where we have to think about making cuts to these services but we do not have a choice.

“If cabinet agrees to the proposal to consult we would want to hear from as many people as possible so we can do our best for all Derbyshire children and families and treat them fairly.”

For more information about The Derbyshire Challenge visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/challenge.

 

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