Sheffield Council blames Government cuts for decision to scrap free post-16 school transport

Sheffield Council news.
Sheffield Council news.
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Families of children with special educational needs will have to pay to get to Sheffield schools from September.

The council today voted to charge pupils £540 per year for access to post-16 transport services.

A hardship fund will be set up to help the most vulnerable young people.

Councillors also voted to end the free post-16 bus pass scheme for families on low incomes, instead asking them to use money from the national 16-19 Bursary Fund.

But the authority said it remained committed to its independent travel training scheme, which helps young people with special educational needs get to school or college on their own.

Cabinet member for children, young people and families Jackie Drayton blamed continuing Government cuts for the decision.

“Unfortunately, because of a further 50 per cent cut to our budget over the last four years, we had to look at these sort of discretionary services,” she said.

“It’s with a heavy heart, but we are between a rock and a hard place at the moment.”

Two hundred young people aged 16 or above with special educational needs in Sheffield get free transport to school. This could be on a minibus, costing £4,000 a year, up to a taxi, costing £12,000 per year.

The council also issues about 150 ‘zero fare’ bus passes to post-16 pupils on low income.

From September 1 those young people will instead be asked to rely on money from the Government’s 16-19 Bursary Fund, which replaced the Educational Maintenance Allowance under the coalition in 2010.

Families of children with special educational needs will also be encouraged to use the bursary to cover the £540 cost.

According to the council’s service manager for children, young people and families Paul Johnson, most local authorities have already scrapped similar free post-16 travel schemes.

“Some students get about £780 a year, and also a free bus pass. It’s double funded,” he said.

Mr Johnson praised the impact of the council’s independent travel training programme, which works with families of children with special educational needs to help them get to school or college without any help.

The service will not be cut under the latest proposals.

“It’s a hugely positive service that enables young people to get from home to school or home to college,” he said.

“There’s a real commitment. This runs through the heart of everything around travel and transport.”

The council runs a reduced bus fare scheme through the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, allowing all post-16 pupils to travel to school for 80p per journey.