Home to school transport

(19 Posts)
elsaiscold Thu 07-Apr-16 11:45:26

I've name changed for this. My DC1 attends a state special school in next county. It's a 45 minute drive away. I didn't feel special schools in our LA could meet her needs and provide an appropriate peer group (don't want to go in to too much detail here).

Anyway I've been driving DC1 since September and applied for home to school transport about six weeks ago. I've heard back this week that they won't be providing transport as it was agreed when they offered the place that I would transport. I never agreed to this, certainly didn't put this in writing, they didn't ask me in writing, and I know that I never said it verbally. They've given a couple of other reason as to why they won't agree.

They've said in the email, if I'm unhappy I can write in and they will review the decision. The decision is review by the of SEN services with advice from the SEN panel.. So the people who have made the decision get to review the decision?! Is this correct? I would have thought there should be an independent panel to review THEIR decisions?

Does anyone know if this is correct? Thanks

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elsaiscold Thu 07-Apr-16 11:46:33

Sorry that should say, decision is reviewed by Head of SEN services....

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pannetone Thu 07-Apr-16 18:25:39

I don't know the answer elsa but I am having my own transport woes. I haven't been able to appeal yet as my first issue is that after 5 months the LA haven't decided if DS is 'officially' on a reduced timetable, and before that they won't decide on transport home on the days he does reduced hours.

I checked the appeal process for SEN appeals for my LA and it says that Stage I is an appeal to a SEN transport Review Officer. Then Stage 2 is to the SEN transport Panel - but it doesn't make clear if that is independent of the department or not. Then the policy says if you are dissatisfied after stage 2 you 'will be signposted to the Local Government Ombudsman '. I don't really know much about LGO complaints but they would obviously be independent of the LA.

With regard to the refusal of transport, is your DC's school named in her statement/EHCP without any proviso about you being responsible for transport as it is not the nearest school to meet needs? If so, the LA won't be able to wriggle out of providing transport AFAIK.

elsaiscold Thu 07-Apr-16 19:52:34

Thank you pannetone. I have been lurking on your thread and saw your update today. Did you say in your original thread that you had put in a complaint to the LA? I would definitely consider the LGO but I think you have to exhaust the LA's complaints procedure first.

I have actually done a bit more digging this afternoon and there were guidelines published by the DofE in 2014 which recommend LA procedures on school transport and the appeals process. I was surprised but it does say 1st appeal can be heard by a SEN officer but 2nd appeal has to be independent, not necessarily outside the LA but not someone involved in initial two decisions. So slightly happier they are following correct procedure but slightly concerned they mentioned information may be sought from the SEN panel.

And yes, school is named in EHCP without any caveats, someone else said that to me yesterday and I wasn't sure that was correct. So feeling more positive than yesterday, so thank you for your response. I burst into tears when I read the email yesterday, silly I know but it's just so frustrating. Though I suspect my LA isn't very different in saying no in the hope you just bugger off and stop bothering them.

Good luck with your transport issues pannetone, I hope it all gets resolved soon, can't believe your LA has managed to drag it out so long.

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AugustaFinkNottle Thu 07-Apr-16 20:12:31

I agree with Pannetone, if they've named the school without any reservations then in effect they've accepted that it's the nearest suitable school and they're stuck wth it. However, I would suggest you go back and double check all the correspondence very carefully to check that they didn't slip something in somewhere saying they would only name that school on the basis that you would organise transport.

If you're not satisfied with the independence of the transport appeal process, you might be able to go for judicial review. That would be more satisfactory than the LGO who can take months, and if you had to go to court you'd get legal aid in your child's name. It would be a good idea to talk to SOS SEN about it as I understand they will do pre-action letters for judicial review.

AugustaFinkNottle Thu 07-Apr-16 20:14:18

Pannetone, I really think if your LA isn't providing transport when you've asked for it, then they've made a decision which you can appeal. If they won't let you appeal, then judicial review is definitely the way to go. They simply cannot leave you in limbo with no transport and allege that they haven't made a decision to refuse to give you transport.

pannetone Thu 07-Apr-16 22:54:36

elsa Yes, I did put in a 'stage 1' complaint to the LA - partly because i hadn't had a decision as such from SEN transport to appeal against and partly because I share your worry that at least the initial stages of a transport appeal seem to be looked at by the same people/same team who made the decision. And I don't trust my LA to follow DofE guidance that appeal panels should be independent of the people who initially made the decision.

I am not at all clear whether I've now set off an entirely different route to challenge SEN transport's failure to provide lunchtime transport. My LA's complaint procedure has 3 stages and then you can go to the LGO. That will take some time as this first stage is 20 working days (and 'accept our apologies in advance if it takes longer' hmm'.

The SEN Transport Appeal for my LA has 2 stages but no time guidance is given. Incredibly on the appeal form at Stage 1 and Stage 2 you have to sign to agree that you will be bound by the decision of the panel - hardly appropriate at Stage 1 when you have Stage 2 to go, and then at Stage 2 you can go to the LGO....

Augusta I have been trying to speak to SOS SEN but i'm not getting through ATM. Can you ask for judicial review before you have exhausted LA complaint or appeal procedures? Also can you use JR in a case like elsa's - i'm confused about whether in JR a judge can change a decision or whether JR can only be used to challenge the decision making process?

The good news for my 'interim' 4 weeks of lunchtime transport for DS is that the regular taxi driver is going to be doing it - DS would have struggled to cope with a number of different drivers over the week.

GraciesMansion Thu 07-Apr-16 23:05:01

This occasionally happens in our county when the la offer the nearest school which can meet the needs of the child but the parents request a different one. They agree to the placement but don't agree to provide transport. Is this the case here perhaps?

AugustaFinkNottle Thu 07-Apr-16 23:40:12

Pannetore, I expect SOS SEN's helpline is closed for the holidays. You're not supposed to go for JR if there's a suitable alternative remedy available, but the reality is that a lot of local authority transport appeal processes are incredibly slow, and if you're in a situation where the child can't get to school due to lack of transport then that isn't a suitable alternative remedy. The same applies to complaint procedures.

My understanding is that there's quite a wide range of options available in JR. Coincidentally, someone sent me a link to a helpful article on JR in education cases recently - it's at rightsinreality.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/why-judicial-review-is-a-real-remedy-in-sen-and-disability-cases/

elsaiscold Fri 08-Apr-16 11:25:30

Thank you for the replies. I have received the letter in the post this morning and didn't give any more information than the email they sent. I have been trying to speak to IPSEA this week but can't get through, will keep trying.

Gracie, I will check through all the paperwork again and the EHCP for any conditions they may have put in but I'm almost 100% sure that they didn't put anything in writing or mention it verbally. And this is my point too, when I asked for the school initially they didn't discuss any alternatives with me, didn't say there was provision locally, just kept saying no but didn't offer alternatives.

Does anyone know which rules governs the naming of school on a EHCP, means they accept it is the nearest suitable school?

I'm going to try and gather my thoughts over the weekend and try to formulate how to proceed with my response.

Augusta thanks for posting the link, will have a look through this evening when the kids are in bed.

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pannetone Fri 08-Apr-16 14:36:46

elsa - have your LA produced any evidence that you agreed to provide transport? I'd be asking them to produce it...

Even if your LA did manage to come up with evidence I doubt it would be very convincing as it does seem to be anything that you have signed. And anyway I think your LA are responsible for transport if they have only named your DC's school in her EHCP.

I remember when we were waiting for our LA to name our preferred school we were worried they would put in some proviso that it was our choice and not the nearest suitable school. They didn't, so we were relieved that we would get transport - though it hasn't turned out to be that straightforward in our case because of DS's reduced timetable.

I don't know of any formal rules that say naming a school on an EHCP means the LA accept it as the nearest suitable school, because I think it where this is not the case the LA need to state this. And really because of their duty in spending public funds appropriately, the LA should only name the nearest suitable school otherwise they'd be incurring extra costs for transport.

You said your LA gave a couple of other reasons why they won't provide transport - can you say what they were? It sounds as if your LA are trying to cobble together a case where there isn't one and like in my case, the LA are hoping to continue to take advantage of parents 'making their own travel arrangements'...

vjg13 Fri 08-Apr-16 17:43:06

I think the LA are just trying it on and could even be mixing you up with another parent. I think you will just have to grit your teeth and go through the first stage.

Be very active in chasing the stages and asking about deadlines.

One year the LA where I live, turned down all new requests for transport and only those who appealed ended up with it. Appalling, but in their eyes, cost saving.

elsaiscold Sat 09-Apr-16 18:31:38

I did type a reply last night on my phone but couldn't post. Anyway, vjg I am nearly 100% certain they haven't mixed me up with another parent, it is totally the sort of thing they would do. Just make something up to match what they have decided to say. Thanks for the suggestion of timescales etc. I was surprised their letter wasn't a bit more informative. (or maybe I wasn't surprised!)

Pannetone other reasons they gave, there is suitable local provision (arguable IMO), there would be a cost! (surprised they put that in writing) and despite the fact there is already a transport route in place for another local child which attends the school, that passes the top of our road, that isn't relevant as case are dealt with individually.

Anyway, we're away for a few days and I'm going to try and gather my thoughts during that time and decide how to proceed in terms of appealing. I mentioned relevant case law in my request but they have ignored this so need to think about how to approach my appeal.

Thanks for the responses.

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AugustaFinkNottle Sat 09-Apr-16 18:35:28

The trouble with claiming there is suitable local provision is that they haven't named it in the EHCP and, as I understand it, they didn't nominate anything before the EHCP is finalised.

I think you really need to get on with the appeal and, if that doesn't work, go to solicitors like Maxwell Gillott to see if you can do a judicial review.

elsaiscold Sat 09-Apr-16 19:10:29

Thanks Augusta that's really useful. I think I will mention taking legal advice and JR in my appeal. There was actually something else that I realised today when I was going through the EHCP. When DC was in MS primary last year (which was in our LA) there was termly review of OT and SALT. SInce the move to secondary, I'm not sure this is happening, I know there has been some SALT input from school but not sure about OT. Should my LA still be providing this even if school is in a different county? DH thinks he may have filed away a letter discharging us from some of our local services, but can't remember exactly what it said. Think I will be mentioning this in my appeal.

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vjg13 Sun 10-Apr-16 18:25:25

The SALT and OT provision shouldn't be part of your transport appeal. I would raise that with school first.

I think they may still turn you down at the review stage but agree it at the appeal when there is someone independent present. They named the school as the nearest that would meet your child's needs as local provision was unsuitable and should be providing transport.

AugustaFinkNottle Sun 10-Apr-16 21:01:35

Yes, your LA should be making sure that the SALT and OT are happening. You should write separately to the SEN department about that.

elsaiscold Wed 27-Apr-16 14:26:10

Hello, I just wanted to come back with an update. I wrote a letter appealing the decision and I have heard back that they have now approved our request which is fantastic. I complained about the amount of time it took to get back to me initially and in fairness they came back to me very quickly this time.

Thank you to those that offered feedback on this thread. It really helped me clear my head and offered some very valid points which I raised in my response to them.

I haven't got all the details about the transport, just that they have approved, but once I have I will raise the other issues from the EHCP with them.

Thanks again.

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vjg13 Mon 02-May-16 18:13:59

Great news! Well done, I think transport count on parents backing down easily and then they make the savings. Definitely how this LA operates.

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