Summary: Mrs J complained the Council refused to fund travel costs for her daughter K, to attend school. A Tribunal had decided attendance at that school was not unreasonable public expenditure. And there is no viable public transport route to the school. This means Mrs J has had to arrange her own transport to get K to school.
Fault found causing injustice and recommendations made.
To remedy the injustice caused, we recommend that, within three months of the date of this report, the Council:
- apologise to Mrs J and K for the faults identified;
- pay Mrs J £300 to acknowledge the uncertainty and the resulting upset caused to K and her family by the flawed decision-making process; and
- reconsider K’s appeal having regard to the issues outlined as fault in this report.
If the Council decides K is eligible for help with transport, it should backdate eligibility to the start of the Autumn 2020 term. The Council can deduct the costs the family would have incurred as part of their contribution to the transport costs, as set out in its post-16 transport statement.
Within three months of the date of this report, we also recommend the Council take the following action.
- Provide us with evidence that relevant staff, appeal decision-makers and panel members have received information about the lessons learned from this case, regarding taking account of travel time.
- Audit a sample of 20% of transport applications for the 2020/21 school year for post-16 students who have applied on special educational needs (SEN) or other disability grounds where the Council has refused transport, where it previously provided it. The Council should check it has made a proper assessment in line with the statutory guidance and its own transport statement. It should check whether decision-makers have considered the time it took applicants to attend school. It should consider where there is evidence of a journey taking more than 75 minutes. If there is, it should follow the principles set out in this report.
- Following the audit, if the Council finds cases in the sample where the decision was flawed, it should then review all the post-16 students who have applied for transport on SEN or other disability grounds and the Council has refused it but previously provided it for the 2020/21 school year.
Ombudsman satisfied with the Council's response: 11 April 2022.