CHANGES to school and college transport for students over the age of 16 from low income families, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will go ahead.
Following a consultation earlier this year, East Sussex County Council’s lead member agreed changes to the service that will save the authority more than a million pounds.
The council has a statutory duty to provide some transport services to pupils in the county, but spends £1.67 million on services it does not have a legal responsibility to deliver.
“As well as contributing to the £90 million we, as an authority, have to save over the next three years, the changes will ensure we can continue to support those young people with the greatest need,” said Cllr Nick Bennett, lead member for learning and school effectiveness.
“To lessen the impact these change may have, I have agreed that money be made available to create a fund which can be distributed by colleges to those who no longer meet the criteria for council support, but need financial help.”
Changes, which will take effect for new starters only from September 2016, include;
• The removal of travel passes and grants available to post-16 students from low income families and the creation of a hardship fund to ensure those in need can still access support
• Prioritising the support provided for SEND students with the highest level of need by introducing tighter criteria and, where appropriate, encouraging parents to transport their child to pre-school, school sixth form or college
• Increasing the current post-16 SEND transport contribution from £370 to £608, with a 50 per cent reduction for low income families, and introducing the same contribution for families with pre-school children receiving travel support. The additional charge will apply to all students from September 2016.
“With multi-million pound savings required, the county council has to make some really difficult decisions,” Cllr Bennett added. “Historically we have offered school transport services above and beyond our statutory duty.
“We can no longer afford to do this, but have ensured that those students with the greatest needs continue to receive support. The changes bring us in line with neighbouring authorities where charges are already in place.”