What are your current statutory duties and how will they change?

    Our legal duties will not change. These are set out in Section 508B of the 1996 Education Act. For those aged over 19, this is determined by the 2014 Care Act eligibility threshold.

    We are currently consulting on how the council could delivery its statutory duties in a different way, which promotes independence for children and young people where it’s appropriate.

    What is the council proposing with the new travel assistance arrangements?

    The council is not proposing any changes for those with the most complex needs but in order to reflect the new statutory guidance in this area we do need to keep individual decisions under review, which will happen through the annual review process.

    There will be a preference to move towards:

    • Offering an Oyster travel pass to parent or carer or the use of a personal travel budget for under-fives, unless assessed as not eligible.
    • Offering independent travel training, combined with offering an oyster travel pass to parent or carer or the use of a personal travel budget for those aged 16 to 19, unless assessed as not eligible. These young people should also use their Freedom Pass wherever possible.

    When will any changes come into effect?

    Changes will commence from September 2020, at the earliest.

    What forums already exist for a parent or carer of a child or young person with SEND?

    The council already runs various forums for parents and carers of children and young people with SEND. These include:

    • The parent and carers forum, which meet once a term.
    • We have SEND ambassadors that advocate on behalf of children with SEND.
    • The schools transport advisory group, which meet once a term.
    • The SEND information, advice and support service is available five days a week
    • The Tower Hamlets independent SEND parent forum
    • The School Transport Advisory Group (STAG)

    When will I know when the changes to the travel assistance provision will take place?

    This consultation runs from 26 February to 6 May 2020. The council will review your responses before considering the way forward. A decision will subsequently confirm the new arrangements. This will be shared on Let’s talk Tower Hamlets – the council’s online consultation and engagement platform.

    Why is it necessary to consult on the travel assistance policy?

    Our policy needs to make our duties and choices clearer. Our processes need to adapt in line with the government’s July 2019 draft statutory guidance for local authorities on home to school travel and transport for children of compulsory school age.

    We also ran a review of the council’s transport in 2019. This found that we need to take a more consistent approach towards our travel assistance across both our children’s and adult services.

    We also want to make delivery of our travel assistance more financially efficient and promote greater independence.

    What school travel support does the council offer?

    Parents of carers of children and young people with SEND can contact their child’s caseworker within the SEN team on 020 7364 4880 for advice and next steps.

    How many children in Tower Hamlets have a SEND?

    There are over 8,000 children and young people in Tower Hamlets, between the ages of two and 25, who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or attend alternative provision. More than 3,000 children and young people have an education, health and care plan (EHCP). Working with our partners, we’re committed to doing all we can to ensure these children and young people have every chance to become more independent, fulfil their ambitions and to thrive.

    How many children with SEND currently use council provided travel services?

    There are 838 children and young people with SEND (December 2019) currently receiving transport assistance in Tower Hamlets.

    Why is independent travel important and how will the council and schools help children and young people to travel independently?

    Travelling independently is a valuable life skill. The council provides independent travel training to children and young people aged ten to 19, with a focus on the transition between primary/middle school and secondary school. Proposal 1 of this consultation invites your views on the guiding principle of ‘promoting independence’ informing our travel assistance policy.

    Which families will be unaffected?

    The families of pupils at Beatrice Tate School, Stephen Hawking School and most attending Phoenix School will continue to have the same access to bus transport to and from school. As will children with the most complex needs attending mainstream schools.

    Any family can request a review of their travel assistance in between their regular annual review, to explore what new options may be available to them as a result of our new policy.

    What is the process for families who are likely to be affected?

    Families will be invited to a review in 2020. Their travel assistance will be assessed, and a decision will be made:

    • to continue for another year under the existing arrangement; or,
    • change their travel assistance subject to an agreed transition period and a process for withdrawal of their old offer by a given date.

    The aim is for revised offers to begin in the new academic year in September 2020, at the earliest.

    For those who go through the EHCP needs assessment process, travel needs will be identified if an EHCP is issued through assessment by members of the children’s travel team.

    Those families with children aged under-five and aged 16 to 19 will be assessed and, if appropriate, either moved on to a personal travel budget or have their discretionary assistance phased out.

    How will transport needs be assessed and reviewed?

    For 2020-21, assessment and review will be conducted by the children’s travel team.

    As part of the SEND travel assistance consultation (Proposal 3) we are proposing revising our process to include assessment questions recommended by new government guidance and our transport review.

    These will be published on the Let’s Talk Tower Hamlets online consultation and engagement platform, the Local Offer website and in application forms so that families can see what we need to know to make decisions about travel assistance eligibility.

    The children’s travel team also identifies those who are suitable to be offered independent travel training.

    All applicants have the right to appeal a travel assistance decision, and we will ensure that information about how to appeal and the process is published alongside the new information.

    We will monitor the appeals to inform us if certain children or families are being unfairly affected.

    What money will be saved and where will savings go?

    Our potential new travel assistance policy seeks to be more efficient and align with the council’s overall draft SEND strategy to promote independent living. It is estimated the changes could potentially save up to £1 million per year once in place. However, there is an increasing number of children and young people with an EHCP and some of the savings will be reinvested to cover additional new demand. There will be a presumption that personal budgets will be the preferred option for most families.

    Are those receiving travel assistance also able to access transport for short breaks, if eligible?

    The statutory responsibility on councils is to provide travel assistance to support eligible children to access suitable education — the official school day of the school in a child’s EHCP.

    We also provide short breaks to many children and young people with SEND. A short break enables children and young people with disabilities aged five to 18 living within the borough to access activities that are often open to non-disabled children, so that they can enjoy an ordinary life.

    Short breaks are just one of the key services offered to families so that parents or carers can have a break from their caring responsibilities and for children and young people to engage in fun and positive activities to improve outcomes.

    We work in partnership with a number of local providers, as well as other voluntary sector organisations and schools, to deliver a comprehensive short breaks offer. We also work closely with the NHS to ensure that children and young people with complex health needs can access services. The expectation for these is that the family makes suitable arrangements for their child to attend agreed short breaks. If a family is facing particular hardship due to exceptional circumstances, they should discuss this with the short breaks team: shortbreaks@towerhamlets.gov.uk

    What is the Schools Transport Advisory Group?

    The School Transport Advisory Group (STAG) is an advisory group representative of key stakeholders in the provision of school transport. Its purpose is for service users, professionals and parents or carers to advise the council on all matters relating to school transport provision and travel assistance.

    It meets once a term at Tower Hamlets town hall. There are representatives from the special schools, children’s travel team and transport providers as well as parents of children and young people with SEND.