Parents hit out at county council plan to cut free post-16 transport for children with special needs

KCC County Hall

By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson

Parents will be told to cough up £500 if plans to axe free school journeys for teens with special needs are given the go-ahead.

Kent County Council has unveiled proposals to end the no-cost service for youngsters over the age of 16 next September in a bid to save £700,000.

But families have criticised the “disgusting” changes, as they face having to pay for the taxis and minibuses their children have been taking to attend class.

Mandy Swords with daughter Teagan

Sheppey mum Mandy Swords – whose daughters Teagan and Kaitlyn go to schools in Canterbury – believes a lot of parents will not be able to afford the service.

“Many mums and dads who have children with disabilities using KCC transport don’t work,” Mrs Swords, who works as a carer, explained.

“I’ve got two children who use it, so it’s going to cost me £1,000 a year.

“We’ll have to find the money some way or another, but we haven’t got the cash spare – we just tick over.

“It’s disgusting really – it’s ridiculous.”

Mrs Swords believes the authority needs to “put more money into special needs education, instead of trying to cut it back”.

The authority hopes to introduce the changes in the 2024-25 academic year.

Under the proposals, pupils with special needs who have an educational health care plan will be “expected to seek a 16+ travel saver bus pass”.

Anyone unable to take public transport will be offered the use of taxis and minibuses, for the price of a bus pass, which is currently £500 a year. The fees can be reduced for low-income households.

Canterbury teaching assistant Ruth French sends her son Ben, 14, to Ripplevale School, near Deal.

“The majority of children who rely on transport are not safe to travel alone as they are vulnerable by the nature of their conditions,” the 43-year-old said.

“I understand cuts need to be made somewhere when money is tight, but vulnerable teens who need transport to access education and to arrive in a state ready to learn should not be used as the saving.”

Michelle Kerly and 11 year old son Edward

Herne mum Michelle Kerly says her 11-year-old son Edward, who is also set to go to Ripplevale, “would not be able to cope” on public transport.

She believes the plans will make families “suffer”.

Official documents show the authority will also run a “vacant seat payment scheme”.

It will allow parents to purchase a place in a vehicle hired by KCC for other pupils on a first-come-first-served basis. However, the number of vacant seats will only be known after school term starts.

KCC is asking residents to have their say on the changes. A spokesman for the authority stresses “strength of feeling will of course be taken into account by members”.

“But a consultation is not a vote,” the official added.

“It is about understanding the impact our proposals may have on people and using this insight, along with other evidence, to enable well-informed decisions to be made.

“The results of the consultation will be considered by members at Cabinet meetings in May and June.”

The consultation is set to close on March 21.

Find out more at


    • Why ?

      I understand that any person over the age of 16 can apply for PIP which contains mobility elements for people who are unable to manage their own transport.

      That money is provided to enable qualifying persons to pay additional transport costs.

  1. K.C.C. should provide free, or subsidised travel, (depending on circumstances or distance) for school children, so parents dont need to do ‘a school run’ which will be better for the environment, cut air pollution, and save the parents money in fuel, so all residents will benefit.

  2. Remind me how much KCC have bunged to the Turner Centre the last year-over 500k. Just another example of their priorities.

  3. Pointless saving from a clueless council they have a big problem and they have no idea how to solve it apart from the usual death of a thousand cuts method

  4. It is appalling that Kent County Council are proposing to make cuts to the free travel for children with Special Education Need SEN. These children and their parents already face many challenges They need an environment where they feel comfortable to be able to continue every day life. This is an area that is really important to the children and parents and Knowing some children have benefited from this scheme and went out to do well it is a big mistake and I hope they rethink this.

  5. Special needs children need stability and having the same transport is an essential part of their stability, if they are made to catch public transport if a bus is one minute late most of these children cannot handle it, it stresses them out also most like sitting in the same seat, my step son has 2 special needs 1 has to have the same routine daily when at school if there is any deviation in his day he has a melt down and it is nigh impossible for the teachers etc to calm him down, this is definitely one cut I will oppose when filling in the consultation form.

  6. Wake up for goodness sake when will people realise that Conservatives governments and councils are completely useless in providing any kind of public services all they do is increase the taxes both income and local to save having to tax the rich more so the Tories just fail to provide services year after year saying how they have to make savings while at the same time stopping Jo public being able to save anything. Vote these politicians out of office they don’t deserve to be elected.

  7. If your child is having a meltdown, please make sure they’re not doing it right next to my Costa coffee table.

  8. As mentioned is a previous post those over the age of 16 can apply for PIP , i’d guess that any entitled to this do so , as a result those families receiving it get an uplift in income with no change in circumstances, as such why is it so unreasonable for that payment ( which effiectively is funding from central government rather than local government) to be used as intended , rather than be an extra source of general household income .
    Discretion would be required for any unable to access PIP.

Comments are closed.