I welcome the recent news that the Council have announced plans to delay their post-16 SEND transport assistance offer. This means that over 16’s with special educational needs and disabilities will continue to receive transport to school for the upcoming academic year, as oppose to having to get by with personal travel allowances.
Families facing cuts to transport have been incredibly worried over the future of their children’s education and it is right the Leeds City Council take the time to look at these proposals again. When the council originally announced its plan to axe SEND transport, I arranged a meeting with the affected parents/carers and Johnathan Pryor; who sits on the council’s executive board. The parents/carers were represented by DEAL Leeds (Disability Empowerment Action Links Leeds). DEAL poignantly illustrated the impact that cutting SEND transport would have, highlighting that many parents/carers felt as if they were being forced to reduce their hours of employment; or stop working altogether, to ensure that their children receive the education that they deserve. DEAL have continuously recognised that council funding has been limited under the Conservative government. However, unfortunately the attack on SEND transport sat at the head of an exhaustively long list of cuts which have impacted parents in Leeds in recent times; who have had to fight reductions to education, respite and direct payment carers wages. Therefore, the decision to delay the cut halts the undermining of equality for both parents and children alike.
The council stated that it had a ‘long and outstanding track record for funding post-16 SEND transport’, but it had originally been forced to make amendments due to sparse funding from Westminster. They also stressed that the initial decision was made after ‘extensive’ and ‘substantial’ consultation with ‘all the families involved’. I commend the council’s decision to openly communicate with the parents/carers affected during this period. This has been verified by delaying the implementation of these cuts after discussions with DEAL.
Whilst some post-16 students with special education needs and disabilities can go on to be independently travel trained, so many are reliant on help to get to school safely. I therefore look forward to working with Leeds City Council, parents and the wider community to find a long-term resolution over the next 12 months and in the meantime, I hope the Government will urgently review the impact of their devastating cuts to local councils and the services they provide. Disabled children should not have to pay the price of these cuts.