The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complains the Council failed to provide free transport when her son returned to college in September 2017, having turned 19 earlier that year. The Council accepts it was wrong to do this and will: apologise; refund the charges; and review its policy on transport for adult learners. It also needs to refund anyone else it has wrongly charged.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mrs X, complains the Council failed to provide free transport when her son returned to college in September 2017, having turned 19 earlier that year.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
- We may investigate matters coming to our attention during an investigation, if we consider that a member of the public who has not complained may have suffered an injustice as a result. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26D and 34E, as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have:
- considered the complaint and the documents provided by Mrs X;
- discussed the complaint with Mrs X;
- considered the comments and documents the Council has provided in response to my enquiries; and
- shared a draft of this statement with Mrs X and the Council, and invited comments for me to consider before making my final decision.
What I found
- The Council accepts it was wrong to charge for the taxis needed to get Mrs X’s son to his college placement after he turned 19 in 2017. It will therefore refund the charges. It will also apologise to Mrs X and her son.
- The Council also accepts it needs to review its policy on free transport for adult learners under Section 508F of the Education Act 1996. Under the Council’s current policy:
- “Where the student becomes 19 years of age during their course, transport assistance will cease at the end of the academic year in which the 19th birthday falls.”
- Learners aged 19 or over will need to apply to Adult Social Care to determine their eligibility.”
- The Council has agreed to refund the charges paid by Mrs X’s son for transport to college and to apologise. It should do this within four weeks. It will also review its policy on transport for adult learners. It should do this within 12 weeks.
- With reference to paragraph 4 above, I also recommend the Council identifies any other people it has charged incorrectly and refunds their charges. It should do this within 12 weeks
- I have completed my investigation as the Council has agreed to take action which will remedy the injustice it has caused.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman