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Teenager with autism misses start of term when council cancels transport

A teenager who attends a special school missed the start of the school year because Surrey County Council did not tell his mum she needed to reapply for transport, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The Ombudsman upheld the mother’s complaint and in addition to asking the council to put things right for the family, has asked the council to contact other families who may have been similarly affected.

The boy’s mum found out the contract for her son’s taxi was cancelled just a day before her son was due to return to his school’s sixth form, leaving her to fork out £2,400 in fares until the support was reinstated.

The mother said the council had cancelled the taxi without notice, and it was the taxi firm rather than the council who told her of the cancellation. She said it had been agreed in her son’s annual review of his Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan that his transport would continue and she had not been told she needed to re-apply for the new school year when he moved to post-16 education.

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

“I welcome the proactive way the council has responded to remedying the complaint for the family, and its willingness to review how its services can be improved in future.
“However, I have some concern that there may be others affected by what went wrong during the same period, so I have asked it to write to those families and invite them to make a retrospective application for transport, and reimburse them too where necessary.”

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 apologise and repay the mother’s taxi costs. It will also pay the mum a further £150 for her distress and uncertainty and £100 for her time and trouble in bringing the complaint.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to write to the family of any young person with SEND who was receiving travel assistance before a move to further education between September 2018 and 2019 inviting them to make a retrospective application where necessary.

It has also agreed to ensure it tells parents of children in Year 11 who have EHC Plans to apply for post 16 transport.

Article date: 03 December 2020