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Help please - Can't get my LA to provide SEN transport for DS on a reduced timetable

(18 Posts)
pannetone Sat 26-Mar-16 18:00:20

DS has a Statement naming a school 15 miles away - it is the nearest school to meet his SEN. Ds started there about a year ago having been out of school for about 15 months due to ASD/anxiety. DS started there on mornings only. Last Sep we tried to build up his hours to full time but it wasn't working so on the advice of CAMHS and the school we settled on 2 full days and the other 3 days til 1pm.

My LA are providing transport by taxi in the mornings and at the end of his 2 full days. they will not collect him on the days he finishes at 1pm. (My parents in law have to collect DS) They say that they have not 'authorised' him being on a reduced hours timetable. So DS had his annual review and I got the CAMHS doctor to write a letter confirming his medical need to do some part days. Annual review took place mid-Jan. Doctor's letter sent to LA mid-Jan.

Having heard nothing from the LA I contacted then last week. They are still saying that DS is not officially on a reduced timetable and they are having 'discussions'. So nearly 5 months after asking for transport at lunchtime 3 days a week, I have got no further.

I have told the LA I want transport in place for the start of the summer term - they say that is not possible because they are still having 'discussions'. How can I make the LA get on with providing transport? I am aware the delay is benefitting them as they are saving taxi costs. Can I use judicial review/ threaten it where I don't yet have a decision on transport?

AugustaFinkNottle Sat 26-Mar-16 22:58:45

They have a point, he really shouldn't be on a reduced timetable as he's supposed to be in full time education. But I would turn that back on them and argue that as he can't cope in school they should be not only providing transport but also home tuition.

So far as transport is concerned, you need to put in an appeal using your local authority's internal appeal system and ask them to deal with it as a matter of urgency. If that doesn't work, go to solicitors specialising in education to see whether you can challenge that further. If there are grounds for judicial review you should be able to get legal aid in you son's name.

StarlightMcKenzee Sun 27-Mar-16 22:07:39

What happened after the annual review? Did you get a document confirming the outcome?

YOu can appeal the contents of the statement. If a reduced timetable is written into it then they have a duty to provide transport.

pannetone Sun 27-Mar-16 23:15:58

Augusta - the LA seem to adjust their view of what is an adequate education depending on the cost to them. When DS eventually got home tuition 5 hours a week was considered adequate. Bit rich of them to now complain DS is 'only' managing 24 of the 30 taught school hours a week...

And can I appeal when the LA haven't actually made a decision as such? Their take seems to be they won't consider my application for transport (on the 1pm days) as DS isn't officially on a reduced timetable.

Starlight the annual review was also a 'transfer review' as DS is Y9 and his Statement needs to be transferred to an EHCP. The LA didn't attend - it was just me and the SENCO. I haven't had any documents since the review. I have already had (still have) problems with my LA over my DD's transfer to an EHCP. The LA didn't carry out any reassessments and then refused to specify provision as there were no up to date reports.... We have appealed.

With DS, since the LA were 'complaining' he wasn't officially on a reduced timetable, I told them they would need to seek advice from CAMHs as part of the assessment towards changing his statement to an EHCP. The caseworker told me I needed to get evidence fron the doctor myself as it was to support my application for transport and transport isn't written into the EHCP.

So have I got to wait for the EHCP to be finalised - with a reduced timetable written in - before I can apply for lunchtime transport? Bet the LA will refuse to put in the EHCP that DS needs reduced hours. And the EHCP isn't due to be finalised for another couple of months....

AugustaFinkNottle Sun 27-Mar-16 23:57:33

I think they have made a decision if they're refusing to provide transport, haven't they? I'd definitely treat it that way, anyway. I suggest you check online for details of the transport appeal system (it's probably in the school transport policy) and get your appeal in tomorrow.

I'm confused about the current position with the EHCP - you say you've appealed but also talk about waiting for it to be finalised?

Assuming the transfer is still going through,I suggest you refer them to the Transition and Saving Provisions Regulations and the guidance on that that the DfE issued. I think someone around regulation 14 it sets out that they have to do a full needs assessment as part of the transfer process. Regulation 6 of the SEND regulations sets out what that entails. It includes getting medical advice, plus other advice that the LA thinks appropriate and advice that you reasonably ask for. You could point out that, with a child who can't cope with full time education, they damn well should think it appropriate to get a CAMHS report; and anyway it is reasonable for you to ask them to get it as part of the needs assessment.

I doubt that they'll write a reduced timetable in to the EHCP as that would be unlawful unless they provide home tuition. So you need to ask them what extra support they plan to put into school to make it possible for your child to cope.

OneInEight Mon 28-Mar-16 10:39:31

If your parents did not pick him up what would happen - school refusal, taxi refusal, meltdowns???

When we had problems with ds2 refusing to get in the school taxi we covered for a while but ultimately to get change we had to stop so there was clear evidence that if they did not change the arrangements he would not get into school. Only then did they back down.

Very difficult as the last thing you want to do is upset the routine to destroy the placement totally.

Also playing devil advocate's I wonder if the school has reduced fee's to take into account reduced hours. They might be more amenable to changing transport arrangements if this is the case and it will also show whether the arrangement is permanent.

pannetone Mon 28-Mar-16 18:42:48

Thanks Augusta and OneinEight.

Augusta the LA haven't exactly refused transport yet - they are saying that are Ds isn't officially on a reduced timetable and the result of their discussions will determine if he gets lunchtime transport. Trouble is that have had nearly 5 months to have these discussions....

It's DD's EHCP that we have appealed against - she was transferred form Statement to EHCP and the LA refused to do a needs assessment. I quoted Reg 6 at the LA repeatedly but it made no difference. They finalised her EHCP without specific provision as they said they had no up to date reports - well that was because they didn't do a needs assessment. Incredibly they have written into the EHCP that DD would benefit from an up to date assessment when she gets to secondary in Sep - the EHCP doesn't plan for her transition as it should because of the lack of reports.

So, yes, with DS I told the LA that they would need to get a CAMHS report as part of his needs assessment for the transfer from Statement to EHCP. I'm fairly sure they haven't - would the LA have to notify me they were getting a CAMHS report? Would I get to see it before being sent a draft EHCP?

I am just getting so fed up with the whole thing. It seems the LA are now dtermined to make no decision about transport til the EHCP is finalised. Then when it is finalised it won't mention DS is on a reduced timetable, so it won't be official so he won't get lunchtime transport.

I really don't think it is a question of the school putting in more support to enable DS to be there full time - he needs reduced hours as school for him is stressful because of the social and sensory demands. When we were trying to get DS to do 5 full days he ended up missing quite a few days as it was too much for him. At least now he goes in every day, even if it is not always for a full day.

OneinEight - if my in laws didn't pick him up at lunchtime he have to stay there all day, when the taxi would bring him home as it would be the 'normal' end of school day. BUT DS would refuse to go off in the taxi in the morning if he knew he had to stay there all day on what should be one of his part days. Did you end up refusing to take your DS2 into school? Did he not then get in for a while? How did your LA change the arrangements?

pannetone Mon 28-Mar-16 18:48:24

Oh, and I am pretty sure the school won't reduce the fees OneinEight - although DS does miss the Friday afternoon activity session, Games and Art the school make sure he gets the English and Maths work he misses - he does this at home.

AugustaFinkNottle Mon 28-Mar-16 19:50:41

Did you quote the Transition and Saving Regulations at them? What did they say about that? It could be worth reporting them to the SEN department at the Department for Education, as I've heard they're monitoring the way individual councils deal with the new law.

Are you currently getting transport because the school is some way away? I'd suggest you write to them to say that the reality is that, because your dd hasn't got enough support in school, she won't cope full time at the beginning of next term, therefore you need a decision by, say, Friday morning on whether they will give her transport for the actual hours she is doing. Tell them if you don't get a decision you will have to assume it's refused, and then if necessary put your appeal in on Friday. Ask for it to be expedited, tell them you won't be able to arrange for her to be collected if school transport isn't provided.

pannetone Mon 28-Mar-16 20:49:33

With DD's transfer i did quote all the Regs at the LA. They kept insisting they had enough info to inform the EHCP, although it wasn't sufficient to quantify it hmm. They ended up finalising it with no specific SALT or TA time so we have appealed. I did write to the Dept for Education and their reply confirmed provision must be specific and this should be done 'in dialogue' with the LA. Then told me how I could complain through LA complaints procedure if I wasn't happy how LA had completed transfer. In fact, I am concentrating on the tribunal route as it is the only way to get provision specified.

The lunchtime transport issue is with DS. I'm not going to ask them to put in place more support for DS in school because for him, at this point, a reduced timetable is the best option and I have a letter from CAMHS supporting this.

The SEN transport lead has told me she is out of office til Mon 4th April. I like your plan of telling her that I shall assume refusal if there is no decision and then appealing. (But I think it is this lady that hears appeals!)

But do you think the bottom line is that I should refuse to arrange to have DS collected on his part days once the new term starts on Mon 11th? It is tricky because anxiety is a major issue for DS and I don't want to add to his stress. In actual fact the LA can sort this relatively easily - DS is now the only child on the taxi run (other child has just moved out of LA) so instead of the afternoon pick up always being at the end of the school day, the LA just need to get the taxi to come at 1pm 3 days a week.

AugustaFinkNottle Mon 28-Mar-16 21:30:00

They can insist all they like that they think they have sufficient information, the regs make it absolutely clear that, if you don't agree, they have to get new assessments done. It might be an idea to report it to SOS SEN and IPSEA, I think they have direct discussions with the DfE on issues like that and collate information about specific local authorities.

Have you checked the home school transport policy for the appeal process? It's meant to be independent, so if the original officer hears the appeals that would be totally unlawful.

Ideally you should refuse to collect your DS, not least because it might make the school work a bit harder to help you; but I do understand that obviously his welfare has to come first so it's really p to you.

AgnesDiPesto Tue 29-Mar-16 14:32:33

you could complain and go to Local Govt Ombudsman. LGO would be able look at delay & past expenses etc but might expect you to use a right of appeal if council say you have a right of appeal. putting in formal complaint on council website might be worth it just to kickstart things

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 29-Mar-16 16:31:36

You definitely need to go through the appeal right before the Ombudsman will deal with anything. Also the ombudsman is pretty slow.

pannetone Tue 29-Mar-16 17:31:46

Thanks Augusta. I am just finding all my dealings with the LA to be tortuous ATM - and mostly they seem to benefit by delaying and not following proper procedures.

Does a transport appeal 'count' as a complaint to the LA? Or would it be appeal about transport, complaint to the LA (2 stages??) and then go to the LGO?

I have checked the LA website for details of the appeal process but it says you need to contact them for details. In fact, last year I had to appeal against the LA refusing DS transport (LA said we had chosen to move him to his new school; in fact it is named on his Statement as the nearest to meet his SEN.) I was told to write a letter to appeal to the 'project leader' - this year I am already dealing with this lady. I will ask who to appeal to - as you say it can't be a person who has already dealt with my claim.

With regard to the lack of specific provision in DD's EHCP because of the LA's failure to carry out a needs assessment, I have spoken to the tribunal line at IPSEA. The man I spoke to was fairly incredulous at my LA's blantant failures but he didn't take any details of which LA it is. To make it even worse my LA is the Regional Lead for the SEN reforms...

AgnesDiPesto Tue 29-Mar-16 19:22:49

i would complain initially about the delay in deciding if he is on a reduced TT and that this has gone on for 5 months. You can say this is depriving you of a right of appeal as until the LA have had these never ending discussions it won't make a decision which you can complain or appeal against. You are just stuck.
Yes a complaint will take time to get to / once at LGO but it takes 2 mins to fill out the complaint page on the council website and at least means the clock starts ticking. sometimes that is all it takes because don't want a complaint registered against them (or for you to back claim expenses etc).
I thin a lot of councils are trying to save money on transport at the moment and only awarding it to those who push / complain/ take legal advice etc.

pannetone Tue 29-Mar-16 23:23:13

Thanks Agnes. I have filled out the complaint form on my LA website and submitted it. It did take me more like 2 hours than 2 minutes though as it wanted details of all the contact I have had with the LA about the issue - there have been a fair few emails over 5 months... (Not helped by the fact that on 3 occasions the LA have said DS can't have transport to go to medical appointments which isn't the issue at all.)

I have told the LA I will not be arranging to have DS collected at lunchtimes from the start of the summer term and if they don't put a taxi in place, he won't be able to attend school at all on those days. (Gulp - I don't want it to come to that!) I have also said that I want the LA to reimburse my mileage for all the journeys I/the grandparents have had to do over the last 5 months when DS should have got LA transport.

BTW my LA seem to have a 3 stage complaint process - is that usual?

blaeberry Thu 31-Mar-16 15:41:22

Our council is 1st stage (frontline), 2nd stage (internal investigation), then onto LGO. As you have raised this issue with the council several times already I would argue that that was stage 1 and that it should now be stage 2 (that is what happened with us recently).

pannetone Thu 31-Mar-16 18:23:40

Thanks blaeberry - my LA website says stage 1 -complaint looked at by service manager, stage 2 chief officer of department and stage 3 chief executive. And yes, I would say I was already at stage 1 as i have been dealing with/complaining to the 'project manger for SEN transport.

In reality whatever stage I am at it is going to take 20 working days (as a guide!) to look at my complaint and I want transport in place sooner than that, so I am going to (hopefully) force the issue by telling the LA I won't be arranging for DS to be colllected at 1pm any longer.

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