Calderdale Council currently provides free transport assistance to eligible pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND) who are in a range of post-16 learning settings, without requesting any parental contribution.
But as councils receive no financial help from the Government to provide these services as they are not statutory, in the light of the increasing cost this will have to change to help the council meet financial pressures on its budget, senior councillors have been told.
Figures show the cost to the council, excluding council mini bus runs, has risen from £27,245 in 2018-19 to an estimated £144,932 in 2021-22.
The service is being described as being run at a “significant deficit”.
It is not proposed to withdraw it, but the impact on parents will be about £35 a month, which is the same cost of a concessionary bus pass available from Metro, and in line with contributions other local authorities in West Yorkshire expect parents to make.
The changes will see the potential cost for 2022-23 reduced to around £75,980, a potential saving of £68,952, and anticipated year-on-year savings in the years to come.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet, which is asked to approve the changes when members meet on Monday, March 28, has been told these will not financially impact the most vulnerable learners who claim the 16-18 Bursary, worth up to £1,200 a year, to which they are entitled.
There would be a cost neutral impact to low income families and vulnerable learners, including those with an Education, Health and Care Plan, councillors have been told.
However, one formal response to consultation was made on behalf of 85 people from the Unique Ways charity, which supports families with disabled children across Calderdale, objecting to the proposals and saying the council should be able to provide universal free home to school transport as payments will disproportionately affect those in most need when living costs are rising.
If Cabinet agrees to them, the policy changes would come into effect at the start of the new academic year in September, 2022.
For the last four years to 2021-22, the number of eligible students receiving this type of assistance, including through minibus runs, taxis, and some payments to parents, has increased, briefing papers to councillors say.
Some of the students use a West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Metro) concessionary weekly or monthly bus pass, which Calderdale Council pays a subsidy for, at £9 per week or £35 per month respectively.
At the meeting the Cabinet is expected to approve Calderdale’s formal participation in the West Yorkshire Bus Enhanced Partnership with other WYCA members.
The partnership will be the delivery mechanism for the West Yorkshire Bus Service Improvement Plan, submitted to the Government last autumn, and which has short, medium and long-term plans to improve bus services in West Yorkshire.