Karen, who lives in Surrey, contacted our LEaP Project in January for help with a school transport problem. Her daughter, Amelie, is 11 years old and has Phelan McDermid syndrome. The local council had been providing transport for Amelie to go to a special school for children with severe and profound learning difficulties. When Karen told the council that they were moving to a new address, within 3 miles of the school, the council said that she needed to re-apply for transport.
Karen explained in her application that Amelie wasn’t able to walk to school because of her complex needs. But the council decided not to provide transport, because Karen had help from carers and access to a car, so she was expected to drive Amelie to school or accompany her on public transport.
We wrote a letter to help Karen appeal the council’s decision. The letter explained that the council had a legal duty to make transport arrangements for Amelie, who couldn’t be expected to walk to school or travel by public transport, even if Karen accompanied her, because of her disability. The letter also pointed out that parents can only be expected to accompany their child along a walking route, not by car.
At first, the council refused Karen’s appeal and insisted that she had ‘means and resources available’ to get Amelie to school. With our support, Karen contacted a manager at the council to demand a fuller response, which specifically addressed all the health and safety issues she had raised. A few days later, the council phoned Karen and agreed that Amelie was entitled to transport because of her special educational needs and disability.
Karen was very pleased with the council’s decision: “It was extremely stressful having to deal with the loss of transport at the same time as moving and to receive the default responses from the council, which really felt like we hadn’t been listened to. I was very lucky to be supported by our school, social worker and GP and the LEaP Project and I think with the combined effort we got the right result. I am so happy that Amelie will be able to get to school in a way that is best for her.”
Karen had to challenge the council twice before getting transport for Amelie, because the council didn’t consider her appeal information properly. We know from our experience on the LEaP Project that some councils have refused transport twice or three times before putting things right.
If you’re in a similar situation, you can read our Parent Guide on School Transport in England and use our updated school transport template letter to challenge a decision. We also have a parent guide and template letter for parents in Wales.