Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (16 019 471)

Category : Education > School transport

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 03 Oct 2018

Summary

Mr and Mrs B complain the Council wrongly refused to provide free home to school transport for F, a child they foster for the Council. F is subject of a Full Care Order, has special needs and attends a special needs school.

Finding

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.

Recommendations

To remedy the injustice caused, the Council has agreed to:

  •  apologise to Mr and Mrs B for the failings identified;
  • ensure Mr and Mrs B are not out of pocket for costs related to transporting F to and from school from 2016. To achieve this, it should pay the costs of transporting F for the first 15 miles of his school trip to and from school on the days he has attended. It should pay this at its usual mileage rate for foster carers and include payment for the foster carers’ return journey for each trip. Its payment calculation should subtract the costs already covered by the Council when a taxi was provided and paid for in early 2017 and not include the additional two miles for which it has already been paying;
  • make a further payment of £500 to recognise the distress, uncertainty, inconvenience and frustration caused by the Council’s faulty handling of the couple’s requests for provision of transport from Autumn 2016 and/or its failure to reconsider the details of its contract with the fostering agency;
  • take responsibility now for arranging transport or covering the additional costs incurred by taking F to and from Q school;
  • undertake a comprehensive review of its policies regarding consideration and provision of free home to school transport to looked after children where contracted placements with independent fostering providers are in place;
  • clarify what its expectations are with the independent fostering agency with regard to whether the cost of home to school transport is met by the agency out of the total fee it pays to the agency rather than passed on to the foster carers to pay out of their element of the fee. Ensure this is clear in future contracts/tendering details; and
  • pay Mr and Mrs B a further £250 to recognise the avoidable time and trouble they have incurred in having to bring this matter to us for resolution.

Ombudsman satisfied with Council's response: 10 January 2018.

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