Special needs travel charge ‘down to cuts’

TravelWireNews update:

 

Families of children with special educational needs will have to pay to get to Sheffield schools from September.

Sheffield Council yesterday voted to charge pupils £540 per year for access to post-16 transport services – blaming Government cuts.

A hardship fund will be set up to help the most vulnerable young people.

Councillors also voted to end the free post-16 bus pass scheme for families on low incomes, instead asking them to use money from the national 16-19 Bursary Fund.

But the authority said it remained committed to its independent travel training scheme, which helps young people with special educational needs get to school or college on their own.

Cabinet member for children, young people and families Jackie Drayton blamed continuing Government cuts for the decision.

“It’s with a heavy heart, but we are between a rock and a hard place at the moment,” she said.

Two hundred young people aged 16 or above with special educational needs in Sheffield get free transport to school. This could be on a minibus, costing £4,000 a year, up to a taxi, costing £12,000 per year.

The council issues about 150 ‘zero fare’ bus passes to post-16 pupils on low income.

From September 1 they will instead be asked to rely on money from the Government’s 16-19 Bursary Fund.

Families of children with special educational needs will also be encouraged to use the bursary to cover the £540 cost. The council’s service manager for children, young people and families, Paul Johnson, said most local authorities have already scrapped similar free post-16 travel schemes.

“Some students get about £780 a year, and also a free bus pass. It’s double funded.”

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