Havering’s school travel support to be reviewed

Havering Council is reviewing the way that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) travel to school.

Families of children with special educational needs will have a choice of how they can travel to school in future following a review of Havering Council’s travel policy.

Later this month, the Council is set to launch a new consultation in response to the government’s call for councils to review their home-to-school travel guidance.

The borough has around 600 children and young people, aged up to 25, with special educational needs and disabilities who are currently receiving transport assistance, including a large number who travel to school and other educational establishments using taxis, which in some cases are costing more than £200 a day, per child.

In 2022/23, the Council spent £5.5million on travel to school – an overspend of £2.8 million on its initial £2.7 million budget.

The Council is currently in a poor financial situation which could see it bankrupt within 12 months and the loss of control to Commissioners if this happens.

The aim of the consultation is to look for ways to develop and deliver more bespoke transport options and changes that could save the Council a minimum of £1.4 million over the next four years, and to hear families’ thoughts on options.

Councillor Oscar Ford, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said:

“The changes will give families, children and young people with special educational needs more options and flexibility in how they travel to and from school.

“The use of taxis has proved incredibly expensive, so our plan is to significantly reduce the number of children using them and to seek alternative, cost-effective ways for children to travel.

“We’re expanding the use of personal transport budgets and direct payments so that families can arrange their own transport or escorts to accompany their family member on their journeys.

“This could be car-pooling, asking a trusted friend or family member to take their child to school for which they can be paid, or arriving at selected pick up points for collection.

“Each person will be treated and assessed on an individual basis taking into consideration their needs and abilities; there will not be a one size fits all approach.

“We will continue to offer advice and support to ease the stress of finding alternatives. However, residents will be aware that the council is facing a financial crisis, so we’ll therefore seek options that incur the least cost to the Council while meeting the needs of the families.”

Once the consultation closes the findings will go to Cabinet in the new year.