Should the local authority help with transport to school if my child has a statement of special educational needs?
The Local Authority (LA) will have to provide school transport if your child is attending the school named in their statement and it is more than the statutory walking distance away or your child cannot walk there by themselves.
However, if you asked for that particular school to be named when the LA considered that your child could in fact go to a nearer school then the LA can avoid providing school transport.
In this case the LA may agree to name your choice in the statement on the basis of 'parental preference' and that you will arrange transport. If this is the case this must be clearly stated in Part 4 of the statement. And on this basis the LA does not have to provide school transport.
Therefore, parents and carers should not to agree to a school being named on this basis without careful consideration of their options, including an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
By law, the LA cannot refuse to provide travel assistance to the school named in the statement based on the fact that the pupil could attend a nearer school after the statement has been issued.
Will I be expected to take my child to school?
LAs cannot assume that if parents have a car, they will take the child to school. Often children with SEN
are in different schools from their siblings, and their parents simply cannot be in two schools at the same time. A LA cannot insist that parents provide transport and you can refuse to provide transport without having to provide a reason.
Also, LAs cannot take into account the fact that the child has a mobility allowance or a Motability car. Mobility allowances are intended for your child's travel to hospital appointments, specialised play schemes, etc.
You can voluntarily drive your child to school on the basis that your travel costs will be refunded. This should cover fuel, insurance, road tax, depreciation, repair costs, wear and tear, etc. Logically, this should be at the Inland Revenue recommended mileage rate.
If your child needs an escort the LA cannot assume that you will act as an escort, again you can refuse without giving a reason. If the LA provides escorts, check that they are properly trained in dealing with children with SEN and disabilities.
What can I do if the LA refuses to provide transport assistance for my child?
You should firstly use the LA's own internal appeal system.
The appeal should be carried out reasonably quickly, especially if your child is missing school until the situation is resolved. In such circumstances, the LA may need to offer transport on a temporary basis until the appeal outcome.
If the LA does not provide an efficient appeal system, or if you feel that the appeal result was unlawful, you can make an application to the High Court for judicial review. Your child may be eligible for legal aid provided that the transport problem is one that has arisen during your child's attendance at the school and is not a problem caused during the admissions process.