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Transport advice please - for the week after next!

(21 Posts)
pannetone Sat 27-Aug-16 14:47:37

DS (going into Y10 in Sep, ASD, anxiety) has an EHCP naming a MS school 15 miles away. DS has had a taxi arranged by the LA to get him there and back. (After a quite a bit of a fight because DS has been attending part time so far, hopefully he'll be full time in Sep as he starts GCSE courses).

DD (ASD, anxiety, selective mutism) starts Y7 at the same school in Sep.

I was expecting (mistake!) that DD would join DS in the taxi BUT instead I've just got a letter from the LA saying both DS and DD have a place on the school minibus. (I'd have to get both of them to the pick up point).

The problem is neither DS or DD is happy to go on the minibus. They both struggle with social and sensory stuff and can't/won't cope with being with a group of teens contained on a minibus for a journey which with the other pick ups is probably 40 minutes. DS's low tolerance for being in groups and social situations is why he has only attended school 2 full and 3 part days til now. For DD I can see the issue will be she won't want to go on the minibus, won't co operate with being ready on time, as she'll work out that missing the bus will mean I have to drive her...

Do I stand any chance do you think of getting the LA to provide a taxi instead? Obviously the mini bus is a cheaper option for them. Both DC have had/continue to have attendance issues, to the extent that both have been off school for extended periods because of anxiety.

My other option is to ask for mileage to drive both of them myself but after driving DD to her previous special school (she wouldn't have agreed to go in a taxi) I was hoping for a break from 2 hours of school runs a day.

blaeberry Sat 27-Aug-16 16:28:40

Transport should not be stressful, do you have any evidence (as in written, I believe you) that your ds and dd would find the minibus too stressful?

OneInEight Sat 27-Aug-16 17:53:04

Yes, definitely fight it on the grounds that it will make you children anxious and may cause school refusal and /or stress at school that will diminish their ability to learn. Perhaps remind the transport people of the reason why your children have to attend the school rather than the local mainstream. Also get the school to ring up and point out the need for stress-free travel arrangements to allow regular school attendance.

You might also be able to argue on length of journey - the guideline is maximum 75 minutes for secondary school children. An extra pick-up added 15-30 mins onto ds1's journey last time - additional distance plus meant he was slower through the city as had then reached peak hour.

It is really important to make sure transport arrangements are suitable for your children as this was a major contributor to the failure of ds2's placement when the LA tried on successive years to pair him with a totally incompatible child which meant he school refused. Couldn't believe it when they tried it the second year. I know they have enormous pressure to cut transport costs but it should not be at the cost of destroying the placement.

pannetone Sat 27-Aug-16 20:35:58

Thanks blaeberry and OneInEight.

blaeberry _ I haven't got any evidence specifically of their transport needs though DD and DS are under a CAMHs doctor (as DD has medication for anxiety, as did DS til recently) so she might be willing to write something for me. The doctor certainly knows how my two have struggled with attendance - they were each referred to her when they weren't accessing school at all because of anxiety.

OneInEight - yes, my DC are attending this school because of their SEN - if they didn't have SEN they would be walking to our nearby comprehensive - as in fact DS did for one term of Y7 before his attendance fell to nil. The LA are probably thinking that if my DC are able to attend this school - which is MS but an indie with very small classes - they are able to get there like other students on the school minibus.

I think the school will back me up - the staff know DS needs to build up to full days in school because he is starting GCSE work in Year 10 and transport stress might prevent this. And for DD I just want the best chance of making the placement work as you did for your DS2 One. DD is making what for her is a huge transition given her difficulties; she's moving from primary to secondary, from a school of 28 to one of 160 pupils and from a special school to MS.

The journey time even by minibus with pick ups should fall way under the 75 minute guideline so I can't use that as an argument for a taxi. Though DD suffers from travel nausea/sickness and for her a shorter journey on the main roads of the direct route is much better. Come to think of it, DD will be even more set against the minibus when I tell her how long the journey will take and it's around the villages...

I just need a plan - I don't think I'll send them on the minibus at all while I try to change the LA's mind...

JudyCoolibar Sun 28-Aug-16 15:30:26

Contact the transport department immediately explaining all of that and sending whatever backup information you have, and start the ball rolling with getting evidence from the school, CAMHS, and anyone else who's relevant. Check whether you need to enter a formal appeal against the decision to offer only a minibus place, and if so, put the appeal in and push for it to be dealt with ASAP. If they won't resolve the issue quickly, consider threatening judicial review and contact SOS SEN about it.

pannetone Mon 29-Aug-16 15:17:39

Thanks Judy.

I'm not looking forward to what will probably be a protracted dispute with my LA over whether my DC can/should manage in a minibus. But I'll have to do it. I 'explored' with both DS and DD separately whether maybe they could just give the minibus a go - DS got extremely upset and agitated that no one understood how difficult and distressing it would be for him and DD simply shouted that she wasn't going on a minibus and that was final...

JudyCoolibar Mon 29-Aug-16 15:47:12

You don't need to let the dispute become protracted, provided that you have good evidence in your favour. If the reality is that your DC just can't get to school without appropriate transport, and the LA isn't offering a quick means of resolving the problem, it would be justifiable to threaten JR. That usually gets LAs moving more quickly than they necessarily want to. ISTR someone on here a few months ago whose LA was really messing them around on transport, and they reported that a pre-action letter from SOS SEN sorted things out quite fast.

pannetone Mon 29-Aug-16 18:49:32

Judy I did search SEN transport threads and found this one started by BJKmummy but it doesn't have the outcome.

I suppose the first thing I need to do is to ask the CAMHS doctor to write a letter about the DCs difficulties regarding transport. I can only do that later this week as the doctor only works in our health trust part time. Realistically I doubt I'll have a letter til next week.

I do think that I will have to take DS and DD myself until the LA agree to a taxi. So it isn't really a case of the DC can't get to school. Last school year when I was asking the LA to provide a taxi home for DS on his part days, the LA only agreed when I said I wasn't prepared to pick him up myself anymore, and he wouldn't be able to go to school if he couldn't get home...

But I want DS and DD in school at the beginning of the school year _ DD is just starting Y7 and it's obviously important she's there and DS too at the start of his GCSE courses.

The LA can't insist that I drive them (paying mileage) can they if DS and DD can't go in the minibus?

pannetone Mon 29-Aug-16 18:56:39

I found bjkmummy's follow up thread here.

So a pre action letter before judicial review worked though bjk's DS was actually unable to attend at all because she couldn't get him there herself.

JudyCoolibar Mon 29-Aug-16 21:35:32

No, as I read bjkmummy's thread, they agreed to reinstate transport till a formal appeal was dealt with and her DS was able to attend school. I'm not sure whether she told us what happened about the appeal.

Melawati Mon 29-Aug-16 23:39:04

I'm not sure whether the LA can insist that you drive them (and claim mileage). In much the same situation as you re transport as I'm yet to hear how the LA proposes to get DD to her new school, and I'm worried the LA will insist I drive her and claim back mileage.
I've had to fill in a long and quite intrusive form asking eg for the times and locations of my other DC's schools, times and places of employment for me etc.
Like you, I want DD to start at the beginning of term but I'm worried about setting a precedent that lets the LA off the hook if I take her myself.

Frusso Thu 01-Sep-16 09:12:33

In a case brought by IPSEA, (R (on the application of IPSEA Ltd) v Secretary of State for Education and Skills) [2003] ELR 393): The Decision was that any flexibility in provision must be there to meet the needs of the child, and not the needs of the system.

Potentially a breach of the Equality Act 2010, in terms of their failure to make reasonable adjustments.

The Department for Education’s Home to School Travel Transport Guidance states that travel arrangements must be “suitable” and that they must enable the child to reach school without such stress, strain or difficulty that would prevent him/her from benefitting from the education provided.

The issue of school transport for children with statements was raised in the case of (R v Hereford and Worchester CC, ex pate P, (1992)) Times, 13 March. The court held that it was implicit that the transport provided by the local authority should be “non-stressful” if the child was to benefit from education.

You also need the compliance officer on side, phone county, and find out who this is, and speak to them about why ds and dd can't travel on the minibus.

The LA can't insist that I drive them (paying mileage) can they if DS and DD can't go in the minibus? nope. I drive and I refuse to take dd except in exceptional circumstances.

OneInEight Thu 01-Sep-16 10:31:22

The sensible thing would be to have transport requirements written into the statement / EHCP plan and the SEN team to arrange the transport rather than a separate department. It is silly that the LA's pay ££££ for schools only to have the transport department mess the placements up by failing to provide appropriate transport. Of course it could be a cunning plot to help destroy the placements thereby saving them ££££. Worked for ds2 anyway. Reminds me we will have to make a phone call to check on ds1's arrangements as have had the usual ambiguous letter - am hoping he will be on his own this year as his co-transportee from last year has left the school.

pannetone Thu 01-Sep-16 18:35:09

Thanks Frusso for quoting chapter and verse.

I agree OneInEight transport should be written into the EHCP - it's reviewed each year so transport could be reviewed at that point too - just a note to what sort of transport will need to be provided then the LA could do the arrangements over the summer.

or in the case of my LA NOT make the arrangements.... I found out today with dS and DD starting next Mon and Tue that the LA haven't actually arranged for my DC to go on the minibus. They made enquiries but never made a formal application or agreed to pay!

Not sure if this adds any weight to my DC needing a taxi though - there are 2 spaces left on the minibus but not much point the LA asking for them now as I've told them the DC won't be travelling on it. Just staggering incompetence really.

I have got the CAMHS Doctor to write a letter in support of the DC needing a taxi - I should get that tomorrow. My LA have told me a need to make a formal appeal but they don't say how long it will take them to reach a decision.

As I said above I will drive them in the meantime as the first days/ weeks of term are too important for them to miss. I'm worried this will won't force the LA to get on with dealing with my appeal.

pannetone Thu 01-Sep-16 18:40:01

Oh and Melawati I agree that the transport application - and appeal form - asks for loads of personal info that can't be used as criteria for assessing transport needs like number of cars in household and whether and rates of DLA received. Can't remember where it says those criteria can't be used though - DOE guidance for LAs??

Frusso Thu 01-Sep-16 20:12:39

sorry, it was a bit random by itself.

email/send a letter recorded signed for (because you need a paper trail, phone calls don't create a paper trail) to transport with those quotes at the top,
then what the problem is, why it is a problem (DS needs, DDs needs, and why the minibus won't work for them) then how the problem can be resolved (e.g. the taxi. then state that it previously worked well for ds because his needs were met) and the timescale that you expect it to be done by.
follow that with:
"The above is the relevant legislation that demonstrates you are required to do what I request. Please send it to your legal team if you are unsure of your duty. I look forwards to hearing from you shortly lest this matter affect my child’s education further."

and

"This constitutes stage 1 of the complaints process."

pannetone Thu 01-Sep-16 22:30:08

Thanks Frusso. Incredibly the letter sent giving details of the transport allocated to your child says that as a parent I 'will appreciate that a service such as this cannot meet the individual requirements of all who use it' shock ! Well, in the case of a child with a disability/SEN it is pretty important to get transport right if they're going to get an education!

And I agree that when it comes to disability and saying you can't meet individual needs, it amounts to a failure to make reasonable adjustments, which is discrimation.

JudyCoolibar Thu 01-Sep-16 23:07:55

You can't insist on transport being written into the EHCP - there was a recent upper tribunal case which said it shouldn't be in there as it isn't education, health or social care provision.

Pannetone, tell them that although you're providing transport with difficulty yourself to start with, you can't continue beyond X date and therefore if they haven't sorted it out by then your children won't be able to get to school. You don't have to give any reasons as it's not your duty to help them out.

Transport isn't means tested, therefore those questions about DLA etc are totally irrelevant. I guess you probably should answer them since otherwise they will use any refusal as a reason to delay processing the application, but it could be worth asking them at a later stage why they say those questions are relevant given that you may have to reapply every year.

Don't mention the complaints process, it'll confuse things. The LA is supposed to have a separate appeal process for school transport and that is the route you should be taking.

I love it that they announce that they can't meet the individual requirements of the children they're transporting. I wonder on what basis they think they are exempt from the law in that respect?

Frusso Fri 02-Sep-16 07:17:32

The LA is supposed to have a separate appeal process for school transport and that is the route you should be taking. there is Judy? shock because my LA have kept that seriously under wraps. and the only time they ever do anything is when we put in official complaints.

JudyCoolibar Sat 03-Sep-16 14:08:04

The DfE transport guidance requires LAs to set up appeal processes. Have a look at Part 5 of this

Frusso Mon 05-Sep-16 12:17:32

Ah that's the same as the complaints process inner county Judy, (it all goes through the same complaints system, so it gets logged.) they've just reworded it to read "appeals process" but it's the same thing. But I would advise pointing out to them which stage you believe it to be at, because it triggers the process and attached time scales.

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