Greens express dismay as Labour confirm plans to introduce school transport charge for 16+ year olds with disabilities – despite negative consultation result. Parents flag concerns charges will prevent post-16s with ‘SEND’ from attending college
An announcement that post-16 year olds with special educational needs and disabilities will now be asked to pay towards the Home to School Transport service has been met with criticism from parents and Green Councillors.
Currently, the Home to School Transport service enables 117 16-19 year olds in the city with severe disabilities or special educational needs to access education. A consultation on plans to introduce charging for this group received an overwhelmingly negative response from parents, who raised fears that additional charges could act as a barrier to education for those already in financial difficulty.
Green Councillor Chloë Goldsmith urged Labour Councillors at a meeting of the Children, Families and Schools committee this week [Tuesday 6th November] to rethink the decision in light of the consultation, highlighting the severe impact it would likely have on families with disabled children already disproportionately impacted by the cost of living crisis. Some respondents to the consultation were concerned that requesting an annual contribution would prevent a sixth form child attending college. 
Chloë Goldsmith, opposition Green councillor on the council’s Children’s, Families and Schools committee, commented:
“Despite a decisively negative response to the consultation, with many parents and carers expressing concern that charges for transport could impact on their child’s ability to attend school, it is incredibly disappointing to see Labour vote this through. The consultation was clear that these new charges will force an additional cost onto already-struggling families of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
“While I am pleased that families classed as low-income will automatically be excluded from having to make this payment, we know people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis that is only set to worsen. Those who are above the threshold but already struggling to make ends meet will undoubtedly be hit hardest by this change.
“Disabled people and their families are already among those who have paid the highest price under 13 years of Tory austerity. For Labour to place another financial and administrative burden on their plate, despite their own report acknowledging that this may prevent young people with SEND from accessing education, is unjustifiable.”
Notes to Editors
 Council report on introducing charges for Home to School Transport states;
The report recommends the proposal to introduce a financial contribution towards the cost of travel of £547.00 (the same as a city SAVER ticket price) for the financial year 2024/25. There would be no contribution where families experience low income or in exceptional circumstances.
It is not possible to accurately calculate the likely revenue in 2024/25 as the number and composition of the young people is not yet known. However, it is estimated that the income generated will be between £0.030m and £0.050m.
Regarding the proposal to introduce a 6% parental carer contribution towards the cost of taxis and minibuses from September 2024, 67% of respondents disagreed. Some respondents were concerned about the impact of the proposed contribution on their own or others financial stability and were concerned that requesting an annual contribution would prevent a sixth form child attending college.