Medway Council criticised for not reviewing school transport policy properly

Medway Council has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for failing to review its home to school transport policy following an earlier complaint.

That complaint involved the council not providing school transport to a girl whose mother chose to send her to a school which was not her nearest qualifying school. The council said it would not provide transport even though the girl would not have been given a place at the nearest school, had her parents chosen it.

The Ombudsman has found the council at fault for not amending its policy following the recommendations the Ombudsman made in the earlier investigation in 2016.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“While I appreciate the council has considered its policy on home school transport, it has not done anything to change it. The aim of my earlier recommendation was that it should make the necessary changes to comply with statutory guidance.

“I hope the council will now carry out the actions it agreed following my earlier investigation, and provide the remedy I have now recommended to ensure other children in its area are not disadvantaged by its incorrect policy.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to pay for the girl’s transport costs since September 2017 because the school she attends is now the nearest school due to a route change. It should continue to provide transport for the daughter to her current school. However, it should reimburse her mother for the costs she incurred back to September 2016, along with interest on her transport costs. It should also pay her mother £100 to remedy the injustice caused by the delay in undertaking the previously agreed settlement.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case, the council should amend its home to school transport policy to take into consideration the availability of places, where the applicant applied for the nearest school in the original admissions round but put another school as a higher preference.

Article date: 16 May 2019

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