Parents’ transport costs could rocket

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STUDENTS with special educational needs could face a bill of £1,000 a year to get to college if changes to a transport policy are made.

County Hall wants to introduce fees for transporting students aged 16 to 24 to their place of education.

It would mean that students who currently travel between three and eight miles a day would have to find £1,000 a year and any mileage above that, the price would go up to £1,200. At the moment they pay nothing.

Carole Hirst, whose 15-year-old son Declan attends Great Arley School in Thornton says what the council wants to do is completely unreasonable.

In September next year, Declan, who suffers SOTOs disease, will carry on his education at neighbouring Red Marsh School sixth form.

But Declan’s condition, a rare genetic disorder which causes physical overgrowth during the first years of life means that he cannot travel alone.

Carole, of Abercrombie Road, said: “Declan is unable to catch a bus on his own.

“He would have to be driven there. At the moment a taxi firm picks him up and brings him home, along with six or seven other children with disabilities who live in Fleetwood. It is all funded by the council so to have to suddenly find £1,000 a year will be very difficult. “It’s all being done quietly, probably with the hope it will be passed through without much notice. I’ve written to our MP to see if something can be done.” A consultation is being carried out to find out what people think. County Councillor Keith Iddon, lead member for children and schools, said: “We accept that transporting children and young people with disabilities to and from school or college is very costly, because transport must be properly tailored to each student’s needs. At the same time, we are facing enormous financial challenges, so we must make services as cost-effective as we can.

“The authority isn’t legally required to provide this service for young people over the age of 16 but we will continue to meet the larger part of these transport costs. Our transport bill for students with special educational needs and disabilities is over £15m. We are committed to reducing this by 20%, which is £2.9m over three years. We have already made significant savings in this area by reducing administrative costs and finding better deals when purchasing transport services.”

“Under the proposals, parents who receive certain benefits would be entitled to a 50% reduction in the charges.” The consultation process continues until March 27 and a decision will be made in June. If passed the changes will be implemented in September this year. Great Arley, whose head teacher is Anne Marshfield, did not wish to comment on the transport issue at this time.