Parents of children in post-16 education in Calderdale to pay more for transport provided by council

Parents and carers of children who use transport provided by their council to travel to and from their place of education when they are in post-16 learning will have to pay towards the cost.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 1st April 2022, 7:00 am

Calderdale Council has paid all the costs for transport including minibuses and taxis for learners who have been unable to use public transport where, for example, Metro-supported passes are available, depending on which is the most suitable for the student.

These are often eligible pupils who have special educational needs and, or, disability needs.

But escalating costs over the past three or four years means some charging will be introduced, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet decided.

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School bus transport

Members agreed a contribution equivalent to the around £9 a week that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Metro) passes other students use post-16 will have to be made by parents and carers.

Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) said the council had to do this to relieve pressure on the authority’s transport budget.

Figures show the cost to the council, excluding council minibus 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”, members were told, with the charges seeing 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.

Councils receive no financial help from the Government to provide these services as they are not statutory for those who have reached age 16.

But Coun Lynn said, and in light of the cost of living crisis, there were bursaries available to help less well off families.

One form is a Post-16 Bursary the Government provides to eligible students if they fall into a vulnerable group, for example they have recently left local authority care, are on income support or have Universal Credit elements because they are financially supporting themselves, if they get disability living allowance in their name or a personal independence payment in their name.

These bursaries can be used for the cost of the person’s post-16 education and can include money for books, for equipment or for travel.

Another form of bursary is a discretionary one where schools and colleges are able to determine their own policies usually looking at personal circumstances including family income and can include students with and education health and care plan, said Coun Lynn.

“The intention of this is to try and make savings in the transport budget but to do so in a way that does not adversely impact on young people from low income households who ought to be able to access the post-16 Bursary fund that is administered by schools and colleges, and so on” she said.

The council would want to see schools and colleges step up to the plate and if bursaries were refused there was a right of appeal – the authority would be monitoring, said Coun Lynn.

Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge), Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “This is one of those things we wouldn’t really set out to do in an ideal world in which councils are funded adequately, especially given all the things we were saying around the cost of living.

“However, Calderdale isn’t immune to the mounting pressure on local government budgets and when you see the number of users of the service and the expenditure just escalating year on year over the last three or four years, you can see that really it is imperative that we do take action now to rein in the costs.”

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