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Vulnerable children could be taken to school from ‘collection points’ under cost-saving proposal

PUBLISHED: 16:37 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:18 25 May 2018

Traffic. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Traffic. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Children with complex needs in Norfolk could be taken to school from “collection points” under new cost-saving proposals from the council.

Norfolk County Council has said it is set to draw up a business case by October, after consultants put forward ideas to save £1.4m from its £33.9m transport bill for children and adults.

The council says the proposals would help people become more independent, with one suggestion giving schools and families more say in deciding routes.

Another proposal will see the introduction of “special educational needs collection points”, which would see parents take their children to a certain place - a bus stop, for example - “rather than the child being collected from home”.

The council says 45pc of pupils could access a collection point within 300 metres of their home.

But they said children who need individual pick-ups would still receive them, and that children could share travel or do so alone depending on their circumstances.

The council estimates the change to collection points would only affect roughly 30pc of children.

Penny Carpenter, chairman of its children’s services committee, said Norfolk covered 2,074 square miles and that, like other counties, faced rising costs for SEND transport.

She said: “We need to change the conversation with families and schools, so that they are not reliant on us to make decisions for them.

“By looking at options such as collection points, where parents take their children to the equivalent of a bus stop, we can help children become more independent, while still meeting their needs and reducing costs.”

But Steve Morphew, leader of the council’s Labour group, said it would penalise vulnerable children and their families.

“There has been an increase in SEND demand and there are not enough school places already,” he said. “That does cause pressure, but all these proposals will do is shift the burden of support onto families. You can call it independent, but it’s just passing the buck.

“It’s just another example of penalising vulnerable children.”

Two other options, which the council says can be implemented immediately, would see families of pupils eligible for free school transport given budgets to make their own arrangements. Another would see historic adult social services transport arrangements reviewed.

Costs could be cut by £176,000 under the second proposal if more adults accessed services closer to home, they say.

Consultants said the cost of mainstream school transport was reducing, so no further action was needed.

It says its £33.9m budget - which excludes £11.9m on free, off-peak travel for disabled people and pensioners and £4m on bus subsidies and community transport - is made up of £13.1m for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) transport, £11.6m for mainstream school transport, £5.9m for adult social services transport and £3.3m for post-16 transport.

Councillors will consider the report when the policy and resources committee meets at the start of June.

• Would you be affected by the proposals? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk


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