SEND Transport Consultation Announcement
Shropshire Council previously announced plans to consult on their current Specialist Transport Provision, specifically their discretionary grant offer to those aged under compulsary school age and 16+.
You can read the proposal delivered to Cabinet in July here.
You may remember back in October 2022 PACC were invited to inform a a review into the Specialist Transport Services, in particular the impact of Early Years and Post 16 transport provisions and what families value about this. Within this review we made it clear the impact on families would be significant, especially for those where a specialist school provision is the only suitable option.
Following on from the proposals to cabinet being approved, Shropshire Council have now shared further information on their plans to consult in Spring 2024 on the proposals set to Cabinet. The proposals detailed concerns about the costs incured to Shropshire Council in providing discretionary allowances for SEND Transport offered to Post 16 students and those in Early Years provisions. The consultation has not yet been developed as so far the proposals are that alternatives will be developed and consulted on.
What has PACC contributed on behalf of the SEND Community?
To date, PACC has contributed the voices of the SEND community through the review that took place in October 2022. Including sharing the results of a transport survey from October 2022 with the review team, PACC also shared this and other feedback with the Assistant Director for Education and Achievement which has influenced the proposals.
The information published by Shropshire Council ‘Council to seek views from special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) community and wider public on discretionary school transport - Shropshire Council Newsroom’ explains how they plan to develop consultation proposals based wider community feedback. This includes ideas on how they could change existing offers to help families where they may be at risk of losing access to the discretionary grants for travel support. These include independent travel training, personal transport budgets, and school community networks (among other things) can be used better to meet travel needs at a lower cost implication to Shropshire Council.
From January 2024, Shropshire Council will release further details of a consultation seeking to change the way they support those in need of specialist transport where the child / young person is in an Early Years or Post 16 educational placement.
It is possible that a decision to remove discretionary transport offers may be made, or that alternative options will be developed and put in place instead.
What happens next?
Shropshire Council are seeking thoughts and perspectives on what else could be done to support families with transport needs. These will inform how the consultation is developed and what alternative offers, if any, may be consulted on. Families are encouraged to share their thoughts with SEND Transport at any of the Early Help SEND sessions taking place across Shropshire throughout November and December.
PACC will also be seeking further information from families to support the contributions we make to the process through the consultation and via our strategic partnership work as a champion of coproduction across the system. We will continue to represent your views and influence the decisions made and feedback how progress is being made.
What does PACC think?
We have already asked families what they feel about the possible changes to Specialist Transport in October 2022 which we fed into the review team. This built on feedback the SEND Community provided in response to a similar consultation that took place in 2019. You can read the reports that have informed our contributions to date below.
In light of the information provided about the consultation due in spring 2024, PACC has the following concerns:
- The data informing the consultation so far has only looked at this years figures regarding numbers accessing specialist transport and has not yet looked at projected numbers who in Early Years have complex needs and are likely to consider specialist school placements and require transport, and those receiving transport who will be moving to post 16 and will require further transport assistance.
- The alternative options disclosed in the information published are already available. Independent Travel Training is limited and is sometimes a challenge to put in place due to limited transport networks across our more rural communities. Personal Travel Expenses and Transport Budgets often do not take into consideration the full cost of the option and are not paid at a sufficient level (meaning families end up operating as a transport provider rather than being able to make alternative arrangements) nor do they include Personal Travel Assistants within the considerations. For these options to be viable alternatives, investment in resourcing and improving the offers will need to be made. These also need to consider the impact on families abilities to access employment (if they have to change their jobs or working hours to accomodate transport arrangements for their child this could have detrimental impact on family life) as well as other responsibilities and duties Parent Carers may have to transport other children for example.
- Options that look at using local transport networks or where local communities could be supported to 'car pool' will require investment and support to coordinate this and support families to navigate the options locally. This may also require a larger scale review of the wider transport offers that are not within the SEND gift to amend.
- Any changes required to offers to make suitable alternatives will take time to develop and implement, which means there is a risk of a reduction in service should the discretionary offers be withdrawn following a consultation.
PACC are clear that any changes need to take full consideration of the impact on the community and have appropriate time and investment made in developing solutions without detrimental impact on any members of the SEND Community.
It is a statutory requirement that all children up to the age of 18 are able to access a suitable education provision to meet their needs, and up to the age of 25 for those with SEND. This means that while the specialist transport offer may be discretionary, the right to access education still needs to be applied. For those young people where a specialist placement is required, or a suitable educational provision cannot be found within their local community, there will be a need to ensure they can access this safely and appropriately. This may mean that Education Health and Care Plans will need to consider transport requirements in the future in more detail than they already do.
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