Last year, Salford City Council was all set to impose a £510 transport charge for both disabled children going to nursery and for disabled 16-19 year olds attending college. This, despite Deputy Mayor, John Merry, assuring parents the previous year that "There are no new cuts and no changes to what is provided to you...There are no proposals to change people's arrangements..." (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
A consultation with parents on making charges followed late last year (see here). The results have now been published, and of those who responded, 86% disagreed with the charges for transport for nursery children, while 76% disagreed with the charges for college students.
The reaction by parents of nursery children was generally one of horror..."Lots of families with children with disabilities live in poverty and rely on benefits"..."I think it is abhorrent"..."We oppose this proposal as we consider it discriminatory"
The City Mayor, Paul Dennett, has now dropped this proposal, possibly in light of the current outcry over the potential closure of five Council nurseries, and possibly reflecting tensions between elected politicians and paid officers.
However, the Mayor is set to impose charges for transporting 16-19 year old young disabled people attending college who either have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a disability.
Of those parents who responded to the consultation for these charges, well over one third had financial concerns, while others had concerns about safety and non-attendance at college...
"Children often have additional costs to meet their needs without adding extra costs and burdens. I feel £510 is too high"..."As it is a known fact that many families with a child with complex needs are already in financial hardship due to the difficulties many parents have in working"... "Ultimately the children's education would suffer..."
Families on low incomes would 'only' have to pay £255 a year (although 'low income' isn't defined), while the Council is to put in place a 'programme of independent travel training', which it also did when it cut adult transport a few years ago. There's been no subsequent public report on the success or otherwise of this scheme.
The Council also states that it will "Empower parents, carers and young people to find creative solutions to their transport needs e.g. by the use of direct payments..."
In the consultation responses on this, some parents just didn't understand what the Council was on about, while others stated:
..."This will be just another thing for the students and their families in this situation to worry about and frankly I think it is a worry they could well do without..."..."I would have to travel with my daughter to school and return home twice each day, she would be unable to do this on her own. This would increase the costs..."
Even the Council report going to Cabinet states that there are major potential risks... "this may lead to a drop in attendance for post 16 students with an EHCP"...and "Concerns regarding affects on low income families"...
However, the 'significant risk', according to the report is "that the required budget savings will not be made on these budget streams"...