Campaigners have welcomed Leeds City Council’s decision to ‘pause’ plans to axe school transport for special needs youngsters.
The original proposals were approved by the council’s decision-making executive board last year, but following a high-profile campaign and protests by the DEAL (Disability Empowerment Action Links) Leeds group – the council has decided to ‘take more time to consider the proposals’.
This means that young people entering post-16 education in September 2018 will not be affected by the proposed changes.
Parents formed DEAL Leeds at a recent public meeting in Bramley Baptist Church and held a demonstration outside Leeds Civic Hall.
In a statement, the group welcomed the council’s move and said:
“It is right that it should be looked at again. We know from the council’s own consultation document how much children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities value the travel to school in an escorted minibus.
“We also welcome the fact that the council has offered continuing escorted travel for those entering post-l6 learning in September of this year for the remainder of their time at school. This is a significant development and is very much appreciated.
“It is good that our children’s travel arrangements will not be affected for the rest of their education and that their normal routine – important to their education – will be continued. Escorted travel also helps hard-pressed parents who face the considerable demands of caring for children with complex needs as well as other pressures.
“We look forward to working with the council in developing a fair policy for the children who will be post-16 in the future. We would also like the council to look at transport policy for children under five years with SEND. Furthermore, we hope the council will work with schools – who know our children very well – in developing their transport policy.”
DEAL Leeds also welcomed the commitment to continue independent travel training. They added:
“We believe this approach is a good idea as long as those involved are sensitively assessed and child and parental consent is given to the process. It should also be consistent with safeguarding best practice. However, of the children we have been campaigning on behalf of, we don’t believe that many are directly affected by this approach. Many of our children have very complex needs.”
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves MP is backing the parents’ campaign and has welcomed the decision. She said:
“It’s vitally important that disabled children can travel safely to school. I look forward to continuing to work with the families affected and the council to find a long-term solution to make sure that disabled children do not have to pay the price of the government’s devastating cuts to local councils.”
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, skills and employment outlined the council’s position. He said:
“By putting our broader proposals on pause, it means that over the next year we can continue to do all we can to help other young people and families in future find the best possible solutions to fit their individual circumstances.
“Leeds City Council has a long and outstanding track record for funding post-16 SEND transport provision but the harsh reality of reduced funding for councils means this is increasingly difficult to maintain. However, parents and carers can be reassured that we will be with them every step of the way over the next 12 months.”
DEAL had argued many parents/carers would have to give up their jobs completely or reduce working hours because they would have to take their children to school. They said carers who do not drive would not be able to get their children to school.