This blog post looks at transport for Young People at Post 16 placements. Please see here for a post dealing with transport for children of compulsory school age.
For learners aged 16 and over, transport entitlement depends on whether a young person is 16-18 or 19 yrs and over. The main difference between the two is that local authorities are not obliged to provide free transport for eligible learners who are aged for 16-18yrs. Rather, local authorities must have in place a Transport Policy Statement (“the Statement”) which sets out the home to school or college transport arrangements that they operate in respect of particular groups of young people (see section 509AA Education Act 1996). Under the law, local authorities have considerable freedom to determine the nature and extent of the transport and financial support they deem necessary to facilitate young people’s attendance at education. This can, but need not, include the provision of bespoke transport or financial assistance.
In determining how to exercise the power to provide transport or financial support the local authority must act reasonably, which includes taking into account all relevant matters and in particular considering the needs of the most vulnerable and/or socially excluded learners. They are also expected to target the support that is available towards students in particular circumstances, which would again likely include those with SEND and/or those from low-income families; although there is no requirement that such transport will be free. Local authorities are also required to actually put in place the arrangements that are specified in their Statement (or to ensure that such arrangements are made) and a failure to do so would constitute a failure to fully meet their statutory duty and potentially be open to legal challenge.
For learners aged 19 and over, who are considered adults, the law is set out at section 508F of the Education Act 1996. This provides that local authorities must make “such arrangements for the provision of transport, as they consider necessary” and crucially do so free of charge. As with 16-18yr olds, the local authority must have a policy setting out the basis on which such arrangements are made and whilst there is no automatic entitlement to free transport for learners aged 19+ if such a learner has an EHC plan, for example, this could certainly support the contention that travel arrangements are ‘necessary’. More pointedly, as with all EHC Plans, the local authority has a duty to secure the special educational provision specified within it, and will have real difficulty doing so if the young person is unable to get to college to access that provision. Further, even if such arrangements are not considered to be ‘necessary’, local authorities retain the discretion to meet some or even all of the reasonable costs of transport if no other arrangement has been arranged.
If you are unhappy with a decision about transport, there is no right of appeal to the SEND Tribunal, rather any appeal must be made via your local authority’s own internal appeals processs, details of which should be publicly available.
If you or a young person you support are struggling to secure suitable transport arrangements, SEND Advocacy can advise and assist you. Contact us today.