Gateshead Council should provide free school transport for young people with SEND
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We disagree with the method that that Gateshead local authority and council are using to save money. As part of their money saving strategies they have withdrawn funding for home-school taxis for some young people with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities).
Many young people with SEND attend specialist schools or colleges that are suited to supporting their particular needs. Often these schools are not within their local catchment area and they must travel significant distances each day to access the most suitable educational provision for them. Historically, young people with SEND have been provided with free home-school transport should they require it.
The problem is that Gateshead Council are now asking some families to arrange and pay for their child's transport. The council choose who must pay by judging who is capable of travelling independently using generalisations about disabilities rather than looking at the specific facts surrounding an individual’s needs.
Although classed as 'ambulant', many young people have hidden disabilities such as Autism, Mental health difficulties such as anxiety or learning difficulties like Dyslexia or processing difficulties. All these conditions can make independent travel a terrifying experience for some of these vulnerable young people. Independent travel must be introduced at the right time for the individual - not when the council deems it appropriate.
Furthermore, if the organisation and payment of transport is placed on the families of these young people, life is made even more difficult for families who already face many day-to-day challenges.
For parents who have children at a mainstream and special school it will be problematic to get both children to school on time. This could put a lot of pressure on parents and affect both children’s education. Likewise parents worry about the cost of getting their child or children to school if they have to pay for buses or taxis.
In addition we believe it is short-sighted of the council to introduce a policy that could increase traffic and pollution which in turn will increase the need to spend money on road infrastructures and health.
Therefore we are urging Gateshead Council to discuss the SEND transport policy again as soon as possible and find a way to support vulnerable young people and their families who already facing great difficulties.
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