Green councillors criticise council over failure to support SEND children

21 November 2019

Lambeth Council has come under fire over a potentially discriminatory policy concerning children with special educational needs and disability (SEND). 

 

The Labour-run council recently published proposed changes to their SEND travel assistance policy. The policy sets out the travel arrangements that the council will provide for children who are eligible on account of their special educational needs or disability. Under the Education Act 1996 local authorities are required to make suitable home to school travel arrangements for ‘eligible’ children as they consider necessary ‘for the purpose of facilitating the child’s attendance at the relevant educational

establishment’.[1]

 

Green councillors have responded with anger over proposed changes to the council’s policy which they say could take away choice of school for children with SEND and exclude them from participating fully in school-life, including through extra-curricular activities. [2]

 

The policy sets out that ‘generally, transport provision will not be made other than at the beginning and end of the normal school day’, meaning that transport during the school day for hospital or therapy appointments or to attend extra-curricular activities after school will be the responsibility of the parent or carer.[3] The Greens claim this is potentially discriminatory particularly as parents who have disabilities themselves or who work during the day may not be able to provide transport for their child during the school day. 

 

The council has also proposed that travel  will only be provided to and from one address and children from split parental homes will be required to choose one home for travel assistance purposes.

 

Councillor Jonathan Bartley (St Leonard’s) said:

 

“If implemented, this will cause a huge amount of trauma for children with SEND. To tell a disabled child from a split parental home that they must choose just one parent’s house as their home would be extremely distressing and is simply not practical. Similarly, it is not feasible to tell the parents or carers of disabled children, particularly those who work in precarious employment, that it is their responsibility to arrange transport to and from school hospital and therapy appointments during the school day- keeping in mind that children with SEND are more likely to need to attend appointments regularly. 

 

This policy will result in a huge amount of stress for parents who are already under a lot  of pressure and could result in children being excluded from participating in breakfast clubs or after-school clubs on the basis of their disability. It is vital that the council provides the necessary support so that all children in Lambeth have equal access to education. The council must reconsider their policy to ensure that all children are given equal educational opportunity, and to avoid facing potential legal challenge on grounds of discrimination.”

 

Notes 

 

[1] Education Act 1996, Section 508B https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/508B

 

[2] Green Group response to the proposed changes to Lambeth’s SEND travel assistance policy https://docs.google.com/document/d/1t0CMFQ0aeaI5sUv-i0Nl2CEnOx2LIFzJGm_-zALXEq0/edit

 

[3] Lambeth SEND Travel Assistance Policy 2019

https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Lambeth%20transport%20policy%20DRAFT%20FOR%20CONSULTATION%202019.pdf






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