Frustration with disorderly transport shake-up for children with special educational needs

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Parents of some pupils with special educational needs in Kent, are still unaware of how their children are supposed to get to school - with just days to go until the new term starts.

Kent County Council announced a shake-up to it's SEN transport system because more students are now eligible to use the service.

Jane Hodges from Herne Bay said, "We still don't know the transport arrangements, we don't know pick up times, drop off times, providers. We haven't been informed if there is going to be any passenger assistance available".

Her son Riley has autism anxiety and is tube-fed. She says he doesn't cope well with change and the burden of not knowing what to expect is having an impact on the mental health of entire families.

Parents are also concerned that children who used to travel in smaller groups of three or four will now have to travel in mini-busses with ten or more other vulnerable children, with anxiety issues or complex medical needs.

Eleven year-old Riley's current taxi service has been cancelled but the family have not been informed of any new arrangements. Mum Jane says she has been told to 'sort things out for herself now' and she will be reimbursed by the council.

Kent County Council said in a statement:

“We totally understand how disruptive changing routines can be for some of our children and young people.

“There has been no decrease in the funding this year for SEN transport. However there has been a 20% rise in the number eligible for the SEN service, which means we are now having to support hundreds more to make their journeys to school and college.

“Coupled with the increased costs and capacity issues currently being experienced by the transport sector, we have been left with no choice but to do more to reconfigure this service to ensure that every young person gets safely to and from their place of learning.

“We have been liaising with families, schools and colleges for several months to ensure everyone is aware these changes are coming. We had hoped to be able to contact all families before the half-term holiday got underway with the exact details of what these changes will mean. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to update everybody affected at this stage because it has taken longer than we had anticipated to complete the work needed to allocate transport to 5,500 students.

“We want to assure the parents and their children who have not yet been notified of the details that we are working around the clock to get these arrangements finalised and will make sure all families know details of their new travel provider as soon as possible.”