SEND Transport Update
In 2023, we released information about Shropshire Councils plan to consult on their discretionary SEND Transport offers. Since then, families have continued to share their experiences across the SEND Community. On Tuesday 30th January, Shropshire Council released their SEND Newsletter containing information about a “Project to support the Councils Home to School Transport Team”. You can read the newsletter here Shropshire SEND Newsletter January 2024 (govdelivery.com)
Following on from our news post in March 2023 SEND Transport Consultation Proposals (paccshropshire.org.uk) and our further update in November 2023 SEND Transport Consultation Announcement (paccshropshire.org.uk), it appears that a formal consultation is still yet to be announced. However, Shropshire Council are seeking views from the SEND community to understand what the Home to School Transport could look like in the future.
Shropshire Council have made it clear their intentions are to reduce the budget spent while trying to improve the way the budget is used to provide a more sustainable and efficient service. To do this, Shropshire Council want to capture the views and experiences of the SEND community, a survey to help Shropshire Council decide how the SEND community can participate via engagement sessions can be accessed here Qualtrics Survey | Qualtrics Experience Management.
PACC are concerned that at no point in this latest press release does Shropshire Council talk about the quality of the experience of children and young people with SEND using SEND Transport. PACC believes this is an opportunity to improve the quality of the experience of SEND Transport as well as potentially improve the use of the budgets. Families have shared with us the challenges they experience with poor communication, limited support to meet their child’s needs when on transport, and restrictive options available. We would be keen to see these engagement sessions also explore how the process for SEND Transport and the care and support offered throughout can be improved too, which may also result in the money being spent more effectively as family’s needs could be better understood and provision planned in a person-centred way for each child and their family. To date, PACC has been made aware of information and offered opportunities to coproduce the process, which we responded to by describing how we have supported consultation development and delivery with Shropshire Council in the past. We have extended the invitation to Shropshire Council again to offer our support and engagement and look forward to their response. In the meantime, we will be collating our thoughts and considerations as described below.
Within the opportunities to provide feedback, we would encourage families to consider the application process, information and communication, your experience of the provider and transport team, and of course your child’s experience of SEND Transport too. This will hopefully better inform Shropshire Council when they explore what options to consider consulting on.
PACC are mindful that Shropshire Council currently offer a Discretionary SEND Transport Offer to children aged under 5 and those aged 16-18. These could be at risk of being removed entirely under the “project” and subsequent consultation. We would encourage families to consider what impact not having SEND Transport would have on your families lives and reflecting this during the engagement process.
PACC are clear that SEND Transport is an essential part of some of our family’s lives. With limited specialist education options and mandatory education having now extended to the age of 18, it can be extremely difficult for families when transport options make accessing a child’s place of education a competing priority with things like employment, caring for other family members, or creating financial challenge in the home. Getting to nursery, school, or college should also never have a detrimental impact on a child or young persons wellbeing, taking consideration of the amount of time they spend in the vehicle and who they are traveling with, being aware of the risks presented if a vehicle breaks down and how this may impact a child’s emotional regulation for example.
Good home to school transport for children and young people with SEND should:
- Be considered in a person-centred way – what is best for each individual child and their family
- Ensure that a child’s needs can be fully met by the driver, and transport assistance is considered where a child may be travelling for prolonged periods of time or multiple children are traveling together or needs are complex
- That transport providers have suitable risk assessments to demonstrate they have fully considered and can respond to the needs of children in their care in the event of vehicle breakdown, medical emergency, route disruption, driver availability etc
- Be decided and communicated to families with a timely manner (not with two weeks or less notice) to allow families and providers adequate time to meet and familiarise themselves with each other, and other passengers where this applies
- Provide clear communication pathways that are suitable for the purposes of home to school transport (such as having a telephone service that operates before 8.30am and after 5pm)
- Ensure families feel confident their child is safe and well, happy and engaged during their experience of transport between home and school
- Families that opt for a personal transport budget or travel allowance are provided with a budget that allows for full cost recovery – including traveling to and from education provision without the child in the car for the purpose of drop off or collection (carrier services include this costing in their contract bids too)
- All required training is facilitated to ensure that drivers / travel assistants can deliver rescue medication and communicate medical and support needs during an emergency
- Routes should be planned to ensure a child’s time in the vehicle is kept to a minimum and any changes to the route throughout the school year are communicated with families in a timely way (not with a week or less notice)
- Concerns and complaints should be heard, genuinely considered, and responded to with care and sensitivity.
- Be informed by the EHCP or SEN Support information held the SEN Team, which should be up to date and accurate wuthin an academic year - should this information be outdated, the supporting information provided by the SEN Team during transport application may be inaccurate and present a barrier to access a SEND Transport offer.
PACC will be compiling a formal response to Shropshire Council to inform their project on SEND Transport and ensure the voices of the SEND community are reflected in decisions made at both a personal experience level and through operational and strategic developments.
To help us understand how we can help shape the best SEND Transport offer that we can through this situation, we would like to hear more about your experiences. If you would like to share your thoughts on SEND Transport with us, please complete the survey here.
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