National Ombudsmen
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Hampshire council did not arrange transport for boy with special needs in time

Hampshire County Council expected a young child with special educational needs to travel on their own in a taxi to school – or face a three-hour round-trip in shared transport.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigated after a father complained his child, who was due to start Reception at his special needs school in 2021, was not given the free school transport he was entitled to during the summer term.

The new school was more than 12 miles away from the family home. Initially the family was offered the option of shared transport, but this would have meant the little boy spending 1 hour 40 minutes each way to school and home because of the other children who needed to be picked up and dropped off.

The child’s father said this was not appropriate. The council instead offered a taxi, but could not provide an escort, despite the child being assessed as needing one because of their age, and speech and language difficulties.

The father was left with no other option than to drive his child to and from school between April and July, until the council sourced an escort.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council offered the shared transport, despite it taking nearly an hour longer than its own guidance on the maximum time limit on school journeys. It also found the council should not have expected the family to provide either the escort or the transport when it became clear they did not agree.

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

“The council should not have taken so long to put in place the escorted travel it was obvious from the outset this young child needed. While I appreciate the difficulties the council has in recruiting escorts, it should have worked on finding one, rather than expecting the family to pick up the slack.

“I welcome the council’s ready agreement to my recommendations to improve the process for parents in future.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay its mileage allowance for the journeys they provided school transport.

It will also pay the family a combined £400 to acknowledge their time and trouble of both having to drive their child to school and also 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 it will review its school transport offer letters to ensure it provides families with details of the statutory guidance, its policy and the appeals process.

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