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Birmingham City Council (19 016 798)

Category : Education > School transport

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 07 May 2021

Summary: Mrs C and Mrs G complained about the Council’s handling and consideration of their applications and subsequent appeals for home to school transport for their children.

Finding

The Ombudman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.

Recommendations

The council has agreed to:

Mrs C’s case

  • apologise to Mrs C and D for the faults identified in this investigation, and repay any costs incurred by Mrs C to transport D to school since 12 April 2019;
  • pays Mrs C £150 for the time and trouble taken to resolve her complaint;
  • pays Mrs C a further £250 to recognise the stress and inconvenience caused by the failure to provide suitable home to school transport; and
  • pays Mrs C a further £500 to recognise the impact the failure to provide suitable home to school transport had on D accessing education from April 2019 to March 2020.

Mrs G’s case

  • apologise to Mrs G, H and their family for the faults identified in this investigation;
  • pay Mrs G £150 for the time and trouble taken to resolve her complaint;
  • pays Mrs G a further £300 to recognise the stress and inconvenience caused by the failure to provide suitable home to school transport and the impact this had on Mrs G and H;
  • review Mrs G’s application and offer H an alternative means of home to school transport which does not require his parents to accompany him; and
  • pay Mrs G her reasonable travel expenses from 13 March 2019 when it decided H was an eligible child.

Service improvement

  • To improve the service offered to other families, we recommend the Council also remind officers making decisions about home to school transport, and those involved in appeals, of the following:
  • The Council cannot insist parents and carers accompany children who live beyond statutory walking distance on the journey to school. For all other children, decisions about accompaniment should be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Where the child is eligible for free transport, parents and carers should not incur costs to use home to school transport offered to their child.
  • Decisions made about home to school transport must take account of the individual needs of the child and consider whether the journey is “safe and reasonably stress free, to enable the child to arrive at school ready for a day of study”.
  • If the Council requires further evidence to decide if a child is eligible for home to school transport, it should consult relevant professionals already involved with the child.
  • When making decisions about transport for children with special educational needs, the Council should show how it has considered the content of the child’s education, health and care plan.
  • Reasons for decisions must be recorded.
  • Decision letters following appeals must set out how the Council carried out the review, who they consulted, what they considered and how the parent can escalate their case.

We recommend the Council also:

  • revise its home to school transport policy to ensure its approach to accompaniment reflects the statutory guidance;
  • review all decisions to issue a travel pass made since September 2018 to ensure
    • it considered the individual needs of each child;
    • it has not required parents and carers of children living beyond statutory walking distance to accompany their child on the journey to and from school; and
    • no parent has been expected to incur costs to use the home to school transport offered by the Council where the child is eligible for free transport. Where costs have been incurred, the Council should repay these.

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