Have your say on Havering’s school travel support

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

The Council has launched a new consultation in response to the government’s call for councils to review their home-to-school travel guidance.

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.

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.

This includes 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 issuing a section 114 notice in 6 months to a year’s time.

Due to the high cost of adult and children’s social care, and homelessness, the costs are higher than the budget the Council has available when you include income, Government grants and reserves, and there will not be enough money to offer a balanced budget.

Therefore, 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.

Have your say on the consultation