Getting school transport for your disabled child

24 March 2020

Margaret explains how our LEaP project helped her to appeal against her granddaughters refused school transport and gives advice to other parents and carers in the same situation.

In October 2019, Margaret contacted our LEaP Project to thank us for the information within our to School Transport Guide which helped her to draft a Stage 2 appeal regarding her granddaughter’s refused school transport.

Margaret’s granddaughter, P, who has Sotos Syndrome and is awaiting an assessment for Autism, had just transitioned to secondary school. Despite the school she was attending being unconditionally named in her Educational, Health and Care Plan, the council were refusing to provide school transport on the basis that it was not her nearest suitable school.

P, who has little understanding of danger and is impulsive, was therefore forced to travel to school on the bus which meant that she would often be travelling for at least 3 hours a day due to the 13 mile route.

However, as our Guide explains, if only one school is named unconditionally in the EHCP, that school is deemed to be the nearest suitable school and a local authority must provide transport to that school, even if it believes that there is a closer suitable school.

After submitting the Stage 2 appeal with help from our Guide, Margaret was awaiting an Independent Panel to discuss the case further. However, a week before Christmas she received a letter from the council explaining that the Stage 2 appeal documentation had been reconsidered and they had made arrangements for P to travel to and from school by taxi at no cost to her family. This was a much safer, shorter and stress free solution for P and a wonderful Christmas present for all the family.

Margaret was very pleased with the outcome and attributed the successful appeal to the information taken directly from our School Transport Guide. She told us:

“My granddaughter was awarded Home to School Transport as a direct result of the clear layout of the legislation in the Cerebra “School Transport in England” guide. The calmness and lucidness of the way it was put together was an enormous and welcome comfort, and I found that whenever I needed to know precisely which bit of legislation to refer to or quote – there it was, at my fingertips!

I’d done so much research, and also been on an IPSEA training day, that there was nothing in the Guide that was new to me, but it was laid out so elegantly, with all the references so reliably and readily to hand, that it made the legislation, although especially complex in our case, understandable and manageable (I’d felt somewhat overwhelmed with too much info, and as sleep-deprived, at a loss to know where to start to organise it).

After having been turned down twice we were all set to go to Appeal, but very nervous about this, as the local authority was to have legal representation present at the meeting. However, a couple of weeks before it was to take place, and after I had contacted him to ask a few questions to clarify procedure, the service manager re-read our submission (it’s possible he may also have taken legal advice), and the Panel was deemed unnecessary.

If I were to offer advice to other families trying to navigate this notoriously difficult journey, it would be:

  1. Trust the Cerebra Guide, it is excellent in every respect! In this bleak landscape, you have a friend in this Guide!
  2. Examine and address all the other criteria used by the LA (ie as well as legislative), and put your evidence together in a way that is straightforward, concise, honest, wide-ranging, well organised and well-referenced. For instance, start early and put aside time to get letters from schools and health and other professionals and be prepared to politely follow up until the letters have been written and you have the evidence you require. This is because the people you are addressing are unlikely to be familiar with the legislation, and in the first 2 stages they may possibly (depending on your LA and the individuals concerned) decide that you may meet their criteria without detailed reference to the legislation, and decide not proceed to the 3rd stage. In our case this did not happen, but none of this time gathering evidence was wasted as it would all have been admissible at Stage 3, and the fact that this groundwork had been done enabled the preparation for the Panel to be more streamlined. Also, at the 3rd stage, should you need to proceed this far, the Panel does not need to use the very tightly specified criteria of the first 2 stages, and while the legislation will be especially scrutinised at this stage, the Panel are also able to use their own judgement.
  3. Something I wasted an inordinate (and as it turned out, silly) amount of time on was trying to make sense of the LA’s description of their legal position in relation to the Statutory Guidance, in their guide addressed to parents. In the case of our LA, all references given to the actual legislation (which trumps Statutory Guidance) were so many years out of date as to make no sense whatsoever. I wish that I had not wasted all this time, which made trying to understand the legislation so unnecessarily impenetrable and nonsensical, and had discovered the Cerebra “School Transport in England Guide” right at the beginning of the process. But even late in the day it was like a breath of fresh air or water in the desert!”

If your local authority are refusing school transport for your disabled child, you can read our Parent Guide on School Transport in England and use our school transport template letters. For parents and carers in Wales we have a guide on School Transport in Wales and separate template letters.

If you are still unhappy after using the council’s appeals process, you also have the right to complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman or the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

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