I arrived home from the States to find this bombshell in my mail…

Posted on Sep 2, 2012 | 14 comments

Dear Mr and Mrs Lewis,

It was decided by [Lambeth] Council’s Cabinet on 16th of January 2012, that two key policy changes were necessary to the Authority’s Home to School travel assistance policy.

The aim of this policy is to increase independent travel for young people with statements of special education needs (SEN) to prepare them for adulthood.

We will be working to introduce the changes after the October half term 2012.

[and now just the part that applies to us]

2. Families where a motability vehicle has been provided for the benefit of the child [or the equivalent in funding - meaning, every child at May's school] will no longer be offered SEN travel assistance.

We realise that for some families this will be a difficult change. However we hope you share our ambition to enable our young people to gain greater independence and life skills.

Yours sincerely,

M– D– (Not sure if I can include his name and email. If I can, I will come back and insert it for your use.)

You read that right. Lambeth Council is stopping all travel assistance for the most needy, vulnerable children in the borough, and it is doing it under the veneer of charitable ambition. In other words, it wants to save money, so Mr Donkor is brazenly lying by saying it for May’s benefit.

Three reasons why this is morally corrupt, besides that hideous lie:

1. Unless they will also be providing May with a new brain, she will never gain enough independence to travel by public transportation to her school every day. She can not sit in a seat on a bus. She would just fall over. Not to mention, she is three.

2. While other parents in the UK have to figure out a way to get their child to school (there are no school buses here), those parents have the benefit of resources such as early/late drop-off sessions at school, which May’s school – being a special school – does not provide. They can also leave their child with someone who does local primary drop-offs, but May’s school isn’t one of the common primaries, so no one will want to take May.

3. Why, if they decided this in January – eight months ago, did they only inform parents after school had ended, in August? They should have had the decency to give families more than a couple of months to figure this out. This may mean the difference between some parents working or not. It is no small thing.

I emailed a couple of people at May’s school and not one of them had been informed of this. Though I would be surprised if May’s headmistress didn’t have a severe reaction to the news. She is a fireball. I wouldn’t get in her way.

Updates to come.

14 Comments

  1. I can’t say I am surprised, I have heard of it happening to young adults attending college. So if you had not opted for a vehicle on the Motability scheme May would still be entitled? I can’t see how they are going to police this. Ask to see your paperwork? You could have chosen to use the money to fund a vehicle privately, so what would they do then?
    It seems to become harder to work when your child starts school, child care just isn’t there. I was fortunate that a member of staff at my daughter’s special school offered to look after her during the holidays, which I will use direct payments to pay for.

    • If you don’t get the Motablity vehicle, you get funding instead towards transport. Either of these options now disqualify you from SEN transport to school. Which is a “catch-22″ since every child at May’s school qualifies and receives this funding or vehicle.

  2. Absolutely unbelievable! Would these children have been given this allowance if they had been able to access public transport?? How about the Councillors reduce their expenses so that this cut is not necessary? I’m amazed that local councils can do this. Surely these things should be a given, over all the country? So glad for the special needs bus services provided in Australia. My wheelchair bound child can be picked up at our driveway, and delivered to her special needs school; and brought home again, with no cost to us – because every child is entitled to an education, regardless of their ability to get on a bus. You mentioned there being no school buses – does that also relate to mainstream schools? I hope May’s headmistress can use her ability to address this!

    • I agree with you Laura it sounds like rubbish to me.

  3. It sounds ridiculous and obviously, they indeed want to save money. How do the kids get to school now? I am confused by all the different agencies that are giving you services for transportation? Have you had to take May everyday because you got a car? I am confused and don’t live in England so I am not sure what parents with severely disabled kids, who will like you say, never will be able to use public transportation do?. What do they provide for them or do they expect parents to drive them forever to school.?

  4. Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood, as I don’t know the details of all of the various programs you’ve mentioned. Are they saying that if you get funding for some other type of transportation (the Motability scheme) then you won’t get the SEN transportation assistance? Does the Motability scheme help kids get to school? Is this about the car that they approved you for earlier this year? Sounds pretty fishy to me that they’re saying kids need to act like independent adults now.

    • Yes, Laura, that is what it means. They don’t want to “double up” on funding as he told me today. The Motability scheme does not help children get to school, it provides a car for their safe transport. And yes, I’d agree on it being fishy as well.

  5. This is just horrendous. I’m so sorry to hear it. It’s a requirement of the Equality Standard for Local government that any policy reform undergoes an equality impact assessment to ensure that the policy change has a minimal negative impact on equality groups. They should also, by law, consult on changes and monitor the impact of policy changes. You could ask for a copy of this under the freedom of information act. It will be interesting to see if they have even undertaken one.

    • I’ll look into this! Thank for this, I had no idea this was a requirement. It could help all the families – I would be shocked if they did this.

  6. Yes well, three year olds all over the world have been far too clingy for far too long! It’s about time they started practicing their independence and what better way to start than getting themselves to school. I mean, by now they have learned to read street signs and navigate public transport. They have been getting a free ride to school, haven’t they learned to be self sufficient yet?
    I mean, if we don’t start expecting more of them now they will soon be 4 and even (gasp) five year olds living at home, expecting rides and for people to cook and care for them. Good thing someone in the government is watching, knowing exactly what the children need.

    • hahaha! I’m sending you in to straighten this situation out, Erin!

  7. This is really bad and could set a precedence for other councils. I wonder where it stands in law, I guess the authority will have run it by their lawyers. I find IPSEA’s SEN help line good for free legal advice, and likewise Contact-a-Family’s. It’d be interesting to know what SCOPE makes of it – they’re so good at campaigning.

    • Other councils are doing this. One of my friends was told she would have to pay £6 ($12) for every journey or give up transport. That is £12 a day! She fought it and won, but like all these situations, there are plenty of parents who don’t fight and lose out when they shouldn’t.

  8. If you break it down, what they are really saying is that the adults in the lives of SEN children need to learn to get along with less help. Which I personally think is wrong-headed for many reasons, seeing as how it is not the same thing to care for a SEN child as it is to care for a SEN adult. If they really are worried about parents not being able to cope when their SEN children age-out of services, the solution might also be to…not cut the services off for people who continue to need them beyond 16 or 18 or whatever the age cut off is. But, of course, this is about money, and how none of the councils have any anymore. The despicable thing is that, instead of saying THAT, and letting the conversation be about what we can pay for, and what other services we might cut instead of this one, they’ve cloaked it in this ridiculous notion that a three year old ought to start learning how to take public transport now, lest she not be independent enough later. Rubbish.

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