Comment

Council’s cuts to SEND school transport won’t work

Edgware Conservative councillor Lucy Wakeley calls on the Labour administration to rethink cuts in transport for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Barnet Council's Colindale head office
Barnet Council’s Colindale head office

Labour has proposed to cut £800,000 from spending on transport for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). As someone with experience supporting children with SEND and their parents, I know this won’t work. 

The council has a statutory duty to provide home-to-school transport for children with SEND. On the 21st of November, I raised my concerns about this proposal during a scrutiny meeting. Officers assured me that they would still be meeting their legal duty. 

As Barnet Conservative group understands it, the budget saving will come from moving families to Personal Travel Allowances and having more children share journeys. Whilst sharing journeys may work for some children, this will raise issues for many children with additional needs. It will mean longer journey times and more stressful journeys for some children if they struggle to share a confined space with others.

My major concern is that this policy may mean some children are worried about the journey to school and it may mean they miss days in school. SEND children are already more likely to miss days of school for appointments and sickness, we do not need to add transport anxiety on top of that. 

Beyond the cost to the children and their families, it is also worth considering the impact these cuts could have on the council. The council has a legal duty to provide ‘suitable’ transport. Therefore, it could open itself up to complaints and potentially even legal action. 

I will always be an advocate for the council being frugal with taxpayers’ money, but it is clear that Labour has their priorities completely wrong with this budget. Instead of cutting a significant amount of money from helping SEND children get to school, I would suggest they take a look at other areas of spending. 

Other areas include £100,000 they spent on a citizens’ assembly, which they are still yet to implement any real policies from. They could reduce the number of cabinet members and merge roles by getting rid of ‘Cabinet Member for Equalities, Voluntary & Community Sector’ and the ‘Cabinet Member for Community Wealth building’ – these are held by councillors who get an additional allowance for holding those roles. There are so many other savings this council can do to save this much-needed transport for our most vulnerable.

I know for many parents of children with SEND in Barnet this will be concerning. If you are worried about your child’s transport, I would encourage you to contact Cllr Pauline Coakley Webb who is the cabinet member responsible for this area and to request that she re-thinks these cuts.


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