Upset for families still waiting to hear about changes to Special Educational Needs school transport

SEN travel confusion

Parents whose children use Special Educational Needs (SEN) home-to-school transport say they have no idea who will be driving their children, when they will be picked up or if travel arrangements are suitable for their youngsters needs due to changes in the service and a failure to keep them updated.

From February 21 there will be changes to the school transport service for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as Kent County  Council arranges new transport contracts to replace those that are coming to an end.

The authority had promised to let parents know by Friday, February 11 who their child’s new transport provider would be but some parents have not been contacted and say they have no idea how their child will be getting to school next Monday.

Kent County Council says issues have been caused a 20% rise in the number of children eligible for the SEN service, increased costs and a shortage of bus and taxi drivers.

‘Confusing’

Margate mum Phillipa Turner says she has only just found out that her 15-year-old daughter will stay with the same transport provider as previously – but only because she phoned the company direct.

She said: “It is poor that there is no personal touch from KCC, they haven’t emailed to say sorry that it is taking so long or to let me know what’s happening, there has been nothing.

“It is really confusing for the kids and that is the main thing, they need to know who is picking them up and who they are going to be with. They need to build a relationship because now child, SEN or not, is just going to get into a car with a stranger.”

Phillipa says there are also worries that some youngsters will end up on minibuses without assistants with medical knowledge, leaving drivers to deal with potentially serious situations.

Parents using the SEND transport service were notified in December that changes would be made and contracts put out to tender. They were due to be informed of the results in January but this was then put back to February 11. However, that deadline has been missed for some families who are still in the dark about their children’s transport arrangements from next term.

‘Frustrated’

Another Thanet mum, who asked not to be named, said: “My son is 10 and we are from Thanet. He travels to school in Deal along with 5 others who are also now without any transport from Monday.

“I have sent three emails asking what’s going on, all of which have been ignored. I have also called, told they couldn’t tell me what was going on until the 11th. Then Friday Kent Pact tell us (not KCC) that they have failed to meet their deadline. None of us are surprised – more frustrated. Children with SEN need to time adjust, there a high chance I will have no transport from Monday and if a driver does miraculously appear I won’t be putting my child in that car/mini bus or coach without any prior notification in writing.”

‘Children unsafe and unsettled’

Another Thanet mum said: “My daughter has left side hemiplegia, she is epileptic and has learning disabilities. She is 14. She gets transported to and from school and has a care plan in place.

“It’s come to my attention from other mums that KCC have pulled the plug on this transportation without any phone call to me. There’s a school forum where parents are kicking off as children on the spectrum don’t like change, especially last minute without warning or thought for families

“My other daughter sees my youngest on the transportation in the mornings because I’m at work, think of how this will affect everyone. There will be people out of jobs, children unsafe and unsettled – this isn’t what a parent expects before a school day is set.”

Further changes

Phillipa says she is expecting more disruption after KCC stated in an email that “there may be further changes during the rest of the 2021/2022.”

She said: “It is the now knowing, many of the children are autistic and this is affecting them.It all seems to come down to money.

“I was told my daughter will not be entitled to the transport at the end of the school year but I can buy a £400 bus pass. This is because she is 16 in August but she is still at school and will not suddenly no longer be autistic or anxious and able to take a bus or train to Deal.

“She has only been at her school 16 months after we were rejected for a place and transport. I had to fight for it then and will have to do it again this year. She is doing her GCSEs and it is just too much, she can’t cope.”

Negative impact

County Councillor Karen Constantine (Lab) said: “It goes without saying that SEND transport is extremely important for both parents and carers and the children concerned.

“Many of these children have special needs, where any change of routine can impact them very negatively and can be difficult to overcome. We should be putting the needs of these children, especially at this particularly challenging time due to Covid, absolutely front and centre.

“Yet again the Conservatives say they want to save money but end up playing roulette with the health and well-being, and education of our children.

“At the budget meeting they reluctantly accepted that their own Government had underfunded the authority by £7m and we were warned that further savings of between £15-£20m could be required.  These cuts should not come from services designed to support the most vulnerable in our society.”

‘No decrease in funding’

Kent County Council says it is “deeply sorry for the anxiety and worry that our delay in contacting some (parents) is causing.”

A Kent County Council (KCC) spokesperson said: “After the February half-term, pupils who receive Special Educational Needs (SEN) home-to-school transport will see changes in the way the service is delivered.

“We totally understand how disruptive changing routines can be for some of our children and young people.

“There has been no decrease in the funding this year for SEN transport. However there has been a 20% rise in the number eligible for the SEN service, which means we are now having to support hundreds more to make their journeys to school and college.

“Coupled with the increased costs and capacity issues currently being experienced by the transport sector, we have been left with no choice but to do more to reconfigure this service to ensure that every young person gets safely to and from their place of learning.

“We have been liaising with families, schools and colleges for several months to ensure everyone is aware these changes are coming. We had hoped to be able to contact all families before the half-term holiday got underway with the exact details of what these changes will mean.

“Unfortunately, it has not been possible to update everybody affected at this stage because it has taken longer than we had anticipated to complete the work needed to allocate transport to 5,500 students.

“We want to assure the parents and their children who have not yet been notified of the details that we are working around the clock to get these arrangements finalised and will make sure all families know details of their new travel provider as soon as possible.”

On KCC’s website is says: “We expect demand for school transport to continue to grow during the next year, resulting in more eligible pupils needing school transport places. This means we may need to make further changes from the start of the new school year in September 2022 to provide school transport for pupils.”

The authority says it will refund any costs parents are required to make until their arrangements are finalised. If you need to make a claim, email receipts to clienttransport@kent.gov.uk once your child’s vehicle is in place.

Find updates for changes to the service by clicking here

16 Comments

  1. That’s an absolute laugh. There are plenty of local transport companies ready and capable of undertaking the special transport contracts. Its KCC that have decided to try and find cheaper options than renewing contracts with the providers they already have.

  2. How many journeys would the £32M wasted on the pointless Thanet Parkway station have provided?
    Expect more of the same, as the Tories move to “small government”

  3. Of course Andrew is totally correct – KCC prefer to hand out contracts to their mates instead of running an in-house service with their own drivers and escorts, a much cheaper option!

  4. I’ve had no emails or contact from KCC but luckily, we are with Regent who are fab and the driver was able to tell me what was going on.
    KCC are offering to refund parents for journeys whilst transportation is sorted out. It has become clear that they couldn’t organise a bag of Pick n Mix, so I wonder how long these refunds are likely to take. That’s assuming parents have that money to spend in the first instance! What a shower of shite.

  5. Since when did it become the education authority’s responsibility to transport children to school rather than the parents’ ?

    Whilst I appreciate that some disabled children may present additional difficulties, if the problem is abdicated by the parents then surely the child should be in a residential school – thus avoiding the transport difficulties.

    • Oh John bless you, such an endearing comment. Totally clueless, and you clearly have no understanding of children with SEN but all the same, thanks for sharing….btw…since when would anyone post such a worthless comment. Have a good day

      • Sorry Joe but I have first hand experience of having to get one of my children with a Statement to school on a daily basis. This involved having to pay for a private taxi from the disability allowance. That is what the money was for.

        My child – therefore my responsibility.

    • You want to send 5,500 disabled children to boarding school so KCC don’t need to arrange transport? It has always been the LEA’s responsibility to transport children to school if they place children in a school a certain distance away from their home. If council’s are so inept and incompetent that they can’t school children locally and instead need to farm them out to opposite sides of the county then of course they should be the ones to pick up the tab. If schools were correctly funded all students’ needs could be met in a local school, this is not the case, which is why you hear of stories of children having to travel up to 2 hours to get to school.

    • Seriously. You are ridiculous. Parents that have disabled children face issues you couldn’t even comprehend. Not only dealing with a healthcare system not set up to help complex needs. Schools are often miles and miles from the distance parents of healthy children would go to school. Many children need special transport which of course costs 10 times the amount of “normal” transport.

      Children in wheelchairs that are under 22kg the chairs aren’t crash tested. Which is ridiculous! Who made that decision?

      To begrudge parents and carers of children of disabled extra help is truly baffling.

      I can tell you that these parents didn’t ask for their child to have additional needs. Every day is a fight for getting their child to be given same opportunities as “normal” children. It’s exhausting. Nothing is “easy” and no one has hands out apart from people that supply anything that is deemed “special needs” where premium prices are always always charged.

      Basic things like getting the correct drugs, getting the correct equipment, getting the right support at school, not having to chase for repeat prescriptions for 8-10 different drugs, being trained in 6-10 different medical procedures just to care for your child, worrying a seizure could kill your child over night – every night and dealing with a wheelchair service not fit for purpose, monthly trips to London to see specialists and doing a full time job and looking after your other child….. it’s not a normal life.

      So in short… you don’t know what you are talking about.

  6. Having only received generic emails stating no actual information, still clueless on what’s going to happen come Monday. With a round trip of 56 miles per day, my child will also have to be late to school and picked up early whilst this diabolical situation continues. I’m fed up with excuses, who set the time frame? Who decided mid school year with nothing in place to cease current contracts? Who’s in charge of communication? Because they have all FAILED! I’m guessing no one will take any responsibility for this monumental cock up, and I’m doubtful they’ll reimburse parents quickly if at all, after they are forced to find an alternative, but that’s ok apparently their working with us on this lol, ermmmmm, they most definitely arent. The most sorry not sorry behaviour from kcc transport!

  7. In response to the negative comment- Our children should not be hidden away in residential homes, what an old fashioned view! I enjoy my daughter coming home everyday after school and being part of family life. These children are valued members of our communities but sadly with comments like this it shows the chasm in people’s understanding of what it is really like to live the life of someone with SEN. Many children with complex needs have to travel sometimes over an hour away just to access education that is appropriate and right for them. That’s a two round trip everyday, yet a typically developing children has the ‘privilege’ of being able to walk to a school usually between 5 and 20 minutes walk away. This isn’t about lazy parenting.

  8. It would be easier to put people like “wise” Merlin and John in homes…. Society would be a better place.

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