Parents of disabled children in Fylde and Wyre will have to start paying towards transport to and from school – despite parents’ anger at the plans.
Lancashire County Council, which is responsible for schools in Fylde and Wyre, including Pear Tree School, in Kirkham, has agreed a new policy, which will see parents of children with disabilities aged over 16 paying a portion of their transport costs.
From September next year, parents will be means tested and asked to pay £475 each year to help ease “considerable financial pressures”.
A consultation on the move was opened last December and most of the people who took part (81 per cent) strongly disagreed with the plans.
Many said they would not be able to afford the fee and could lead to their children stopping their attendance at school or college.
But the move comes in the wake of hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts the council is being forced to make.
In a report on the changes, County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children and young people, said the cost of providing home to school transport for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) last year was more than £16m. There are 2,907 pupils aged 3-19 who receive free travel to school or college through the council, and the majority of them attend special schools.
The authority must provide 83 per cent of the cost by law, but the remainder is currently provided on a discretionary basis – and it is that portion which is set to be charged to parents under the new policy.
The report says: “In view of the considerable financial pressures which the County Council faces, both currently and in the foreseeable future, it is considered necessary to revise the Home to School/College Transport Policy for Children and Young People with SEND with a view to identifying possible savings and/or generating additional revenues.”