Petition launched over Sefton transport cuts

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School bus (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

School bus (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

Sefton Council plans to cut transport for disabled children and young people after they reach the age of 16 and introduce tracking devices to encourage independent travel.

The proposal, which emerged in January, has recently gained interest after a petition against the scheme circulated on Facebook. Formby resident, Joanne Allman, who coordinated the petition, explained that it would adversely affect children.

She told JMU Journalism: “I think a lot of parents are angry that the council are presenting this as being about promoting independence for young people, whereas many suspect it is just about cutting costs.

“I’m sure that we would all be delighted if our children were able to travel to school or college independently, but sadly, it isn’t possible for all young people.”

The council currently pays transport for over 16s if the child possesses a statement proving SEN (Special Educational Needs) after being assessed, or if the child cannot walk due to their SEN, a disability or mobility problem. If the policy change is approved, transport would only continue to be provided for students in agreement with the council’s statutory duties, which includes beyond statutory walking distances and those on low incomes.

Allan continued: “The severely disabled will be hit the hardest. Some children are wheelchair users, and require specially adapted transport. Some live far away from school–I know of families who live 15 miles away, so that would mean driving 60 miles every day.

“If parents are working, they may even have to give up work to take their children to school or college. Some parents have younger children, or children at two different special schools, or one at special school and one at a specialist college–how would they cope?”

It is feared that severely disabled children, with profound and complex difficulties do not have the necessary skills to access this support, nor will they be able to travel to school or college independently.

Presented as “an opportunity for young people to develop independence skills”, Sefton Council is offering a ‘Travel Training’ scheme which would include a security tracking device with the intention of enabling children and young people to travel to and from school or college independently.

A report from the Head of Learning and Support, Mike McSorley, reads: “Children, families and young people are at the centre of the assessment and care planning process and are partners in making decisions throughout.

“Transport is considered as part of these processes and each pupil will be individually assessed and where appropriate independent travel will be one of the Education Health and Care Plan outcomes. It is envisaged that young people who are capable of using public transport will be moved from specialist transport to public transport by year 10.”

About Stephanie Bewley, JMU Journalism