Surrey CC criticised for not providing school transport for boy

Surrey County Council failed to consider disability issues properly when refusing to provide transport to school for a six-year-old boy.

Surrey County Council failed to consider disability issues properly when refusing to provide transport to school for a six-year-old boy finds Local Government Ombudsman, Tony Redmond. In his report, issued today (16 September 2010) he says: “I do not believe the Council has ever explained exactly how it expected [the boy] to get to school if transport was not provided.”

He adds: “It is also clear to me that if there had been no fault by the Council, a decision to award school transport would have been taken considerably earlier than was in fact the case. As a result of this fault the complainants have been caused considerable distress and inconvenience and [the boy’s grandmother] in particular has been forced to take [her grandson] to school despite clear medical advice that she should not continue to do so.”

‘Mrs Booth’ and her daughter (real names are not given for legal reasons) both have health problems. Mrs Booth complained that the Council acted unreasonably in not providing home to school transport for her grandson, ‘Tim’. In particular she argued that the Council had not properly considered the medical and other evidence that showed he was unable to make the journey unaccompanied, and the evidence that neither she nor her daughter were able to take him because of their respective health issues.

The Ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice to Mrs Booth. Initially the Council failed even to consider whether there was an exceptional need for school transport to be awarded. When it did look at this it:

  • did not properly consider the evidence and took into account inaccurate information
  • did not keep proper records of the evidence it relied on in reaching its decisions and the way those decisions were reached
  • did not record how the case had been considered in accordance with the law
  • referred to a higher test for transport to be awarded than was required by its own policy
  • failed to explain the reasons for its decision properly
  • failed to consider its duties properly under the Disability Discrimination Act, and
  • delayed in progressing matters through its appeals procedure.

The Ombudsman welcomes the procedural improvements the Council has already agreed to make in consequence of this investigation, but suggests it should consider whether any further changes are necessary in the light of his comments.

In accordance with the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the Council has agreed to:

  • pay £1,500 to Mrs Booth in recognition of her injustice
  • pay Mrs Booth a further £500 for the significant unnecessary time and trouble she had to take in pursuing her complaint, and
  • pay £500 to Mrs Booth’s daughter for the distress caused to her.

The Ombudsman welcomes this positive response.

Report ref no 09 010 645

Article date: 16 September 2010