Parents attending a public meeting in Bramley have criticised Leeds City Council’s decision to axe school transport for special needs youngsters aged over 16 and under five.
DEAL Leeds – Disability Empowerment Action Links Leeds – is made up of parents who are calling on Leeds City Council to reverse their decision to cut vital school transport for youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities in Leeds.
The parents officially formed the group at a recent public meeting in Bramley Baptist Church in Hough Lane and are planning a demonstration outside Leeds Civic Hall.
A DEAL spokesperson said this was a cut too far and added:
“If implemented this cut will cause distress to SEND young people and their families. These children and young people do not have the life chances that ordinary young people have, DEAL is arguing that this cut will limit them even further.
“Parents of children and young people in Leeds have recently had to fight cuts to education, respite, and direct payment carers wages. We know funding is limited at the present time, we just want fairness and equality for disabled children and young people in Leeds.”
DEAL say many parents/carers will have to give up their jobs or reduce working hours because they will have to take their children to school. they say carers who do not or can not afford to drive do not know how they will get their children to school.
Rachel Feather, pictured above, has a 15-year-old son with global development delay, operating at a level of a two year old. She will have to give up her job if school transport is not provided at age 16, losing her £900 per month. She said:
“This is going to cause a lot of hardship and will put us under a great deal of financial stress.I will have to stop working all together. This will have a greater impact on us as a family and on my mental health and well-being.Also my working pension will stop so I have nothing for my older years too.
“This whole situation has been extremely stressful causing me to have anxiety and I feel extremely sad and upset all the time.”
Adeola Awofisoye, who recently moved to Leeds from Birmingham due to her husband’s job, was shocked that after appealing the transport decision was only offered one day’s transport for her three and half year old son’s education placement. She said:
“His Education, Health and Care plan states that he should be in his education placement for three days as he needs intensive support due to global development delay. I had no trouble with my son’s transport when I lived in Birmingham and wish I could move back.”
DEAL members are concerned that Leeds City Council have not been restorative in their approach to this cut and parent/carers feel that the consultation process has not been conducted in a transparent manner. Some also feel the appeals procedures have been implemented in a way that many parents and carers did not have adequate notice to prepare their cases.
Parent Jane Town said:
“The whole process of preparing my case for the appeal was so stressful, I had to gather all my evidence in little time, the whole situation affected my health to a point I was considering going on sick from my job. I feel absolutely devastated by the council’s decision to cut a vital service that is needed for the most vulnerable in society.”
Leeds City Council said the decision had been made following a ‘substantial’ consultation with parents last year.
In a statement, Director for Children and Families Steve Walker said:
“There has never been a statutory duty on the council to provide this support but, historically Leeds has always done so. However, due to significant reductions to the council’s funding over the past few years, we have been forced to look at everything that we do to ensure that we are able to continue to meet our statutory responsibilities.
“Following an extensive, substantial consultation with all the families involved, we listened to their feedback and changed our transport policy, which was approved by executive board last year.
“The new policy reflects our commitment to supporting families to enable young people with special educational needs and disabilities to gain greater independence as they move into adulthood.”
The new policy will apply for around 100 young people entering post 16 learning from September 2018. Mr Walker added:
“This includes 50 young people who will benefit from independent travel training – a life changing skill that will increase independence in all aspects of their lives.
“For other young people we will provide a personal travel allowance to support families to make their own travel arrangements, and are committed to supporting those families to identify a range of options that can be funded by this allowance.
“We will continue to provide transport for those young people with the most complex needs. This represents a continued investment of £800k each year for post 16 learners with special educational needs and disabilities in Leeds.
“We are also investing an additional £800,000 over two years to provide additional learning for young people accessing post 16 specialist education to support programmes that will prepare them for adulthood. This is in keeping with our ambition to ensure that all our young people are supported to do well in their learning, have skills for life and as much independence as possible.”
DEAL are urging parents/carers who are in similar situations to contact the group at
DEAL.LEEDS@outlook.com for support.