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Home to school travel

Lorraine Smith, a disabled parent from the UK, talks about the challenges she is facing in getting appropriate provision for transport to school for her children.

I've been an amputee for 34 years. However, after a routine revision of my amputation in 2002, I developed complex regional pain syndrome/reflex sympathetic dystrophy. This means that I suffer from chronic pain and on ‘good’ days use a stick to help me get around.

We have two children, a teenage son and six-year-old daughter. We were given transport provision for our daughter when she started nursery school at age two and a half, through the government's Sure Start scheme (www.surestart.gov.uk) and this continued when she started school.

The drivers and their managers have always been supportive. However, lately we have had a few unexpected problems in that a couple of the team members were coming to collect our daughter at 8.20am when the school is only five to 10 minutes away by car (depending on traffic). This meant that our daughter was in the playground unsupervised for at least 15 minutes with only two other youngsters. This upset her, which obviously upset me.

I had ‘discussions‘ with the boss of the homecare team of my local social services department. As a result of questioning the reasoning and possible safety issues arising from this early pickup, we've now been told that driving my daughter to school is no longer in their remit.

Help! So now not only do I have the guilt trip from my daughter of ‘but everyone else's mummy takes them to school’ but we now also have the worry of how to get her there at all. I have to use all my ‘favours’ from friends and family in the afternoon to collect her from school, or get her brother to activities. My husband is self-employed and already works ridiculously long hours during the week to allow him to be around to help at the weekend.

Both the schools our children attend have excellent access policies in place. I have had no problems getting to parents' evenings and so on. The secondary school always utilises only the ground floor on these occasions. I am always made to feel welcome at the primary school, I'm on the Parent Teacher Association and help at school discos, activities and trips when I can.

Although social services are not taking the service away from us yet, it will have to be reviewed in the near future. I get the feeling that, in my area anyway, everyone agrees that provision must be made, but the argument is, who is responsible and what budget pays?

The DPPI Information Service regularly receives enquiries from disabled parents about the important issue of home to school transport for their children. Parents often report problems in obtaining funding for the provision of school transport and confusion over who is responsible for providing such funding.

In England, since April 2007, when the Department for Education and Skills issued updated home to school travel and transport guidance, it has been clear that local authorities are responsible for ensuring that the children of disabled parents are able to get to school. Local authorities are under a statutory duty to regard this guidance, which covers local authority duties and powers relating to sustainable school travel, and the provision of school travel arrangements for children and young people.

Part 3 deals with the duty on local authorities to make such travel arrangements as they consider necessary to facilitate attendance at school for ‘eligible children’, with a specific section about disabled parents (please see the extract below).

This guidance is welcome. However, the issue of home to school transport remains a difficult one, as it is still unclear who within the local authority is responsible for funding this provision.

Extract from Department for Education and Skills, London, 2007. Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance.

Disabled parents

Paragraph 87. Local authorities should note that since December 2006, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 has placed a duty on the public sector to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people and to eliminate discrimination. This duty is anticipatory, meaning that public authorities must review all their policies, practices, procedures and services to make sure they do not discriminate against disabled people, and to ensure that all their services are planned with disabled people's needs fully considered in advance.

Paragraph 88. In the Department's view, this means that local authorities will be under a duty to amend their home to school transport policy if, for example, that policy relied on disabled parents accompanying their children along a walking route for it to be considered safe, and where the parents' disability prevented them from doing so. In such circumstances, a reasonable adjustment would be for the local authority to provide free home to school transport for the children of disabled parents.

Both the schools our children attend have excellent access policies in place. I have had no problems getting to parents' evenings and so on. The secondary school always utilises only the ground floor on these occasions. I am always made to feel welcome at the primary school, I'm on the Parent Teacher Association and help at school discos, activities and trips when I can.

Although social services are not taking the service away from us yet, it will have to be reviewed in the near future. I get the feeling that, in my area anyway, everyone agrees that provision must be made, but the argument is, who is responsible and what budget pays?

The DPPI Information Service regularly receives enquiries from disabled parents about the important issue of home to school transport for their children. Parents often report problems in obtaining funding for the provision of school transport and confusion over who is responsible for providing such funding.

In England, since April 2007, when the Department for Education and Skills issued updated home to school travel and transport guidance, it has been clear that local authorities are responsible for ensuring that the children of disabled parents are able to get to school. Local authorities are under a statutory duty to regard this guidance, which covers local authority duties and powers relating to sustainable school travel, and the provision of school travel arrangements for children and young people.

Part 3 deals with the duty on local authorities to make such travel arrangements as they consider necessary to facilitate attendance at school for ‘eligible children’ — with a specific section about disabled parents (please see the extract below).

This guidance is welcome. However, the issue of home to school transport remains a difficult one, as it is still unclear who within the local authority is responsible for funding this provision.

First published DPPI Journal, Issue 63: Autumn 2008

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