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Urgent funding needed to support school transport for children with special educational needs

Norfolk County Council, 23 November 2023 00:00

Norfolk County Council is backing a call from the County Council's Network (CCN) for an urgent cash injection to support home to school transport.

In a new report, published ahead of the autumn statement, the CCN lays bare the huge financial pressures councils are facing in their transport budgets - particularly large, rural councils like Norfolk.

The report, "From home to the classroom: making travel to schools services sustainable," details how councils are increasingly having to use taxis and other high-cost transport to take children with special educational needs and disabilities to school, partly due to increasingly complex needs and growing demand for specialist places.

The CCN is calling for extra funding to support councils and reforms to home to school transport policy from government.

Norfolk County Council will spend about £60m on home to school transport for children this year, up from £51m in 2022/23. Nearly £40m of that spending will be on children with special educational needs and disabilities, with an average cost of £9,730 per child with SEND.

The council has already committed investment of £120m in extra specialist school places, including new special schools and specialist resource bases, with more places planned in the coming years.  Additionally, it is working with the DfE on a further £100m programme (Local First Inclusion) to increase provision and provide more support in mainstream schools.

The extra specialist capacity will help reduce the distance that children need to travel, whilst aiming to bring Norfolk's high needs special educational needs spending back to balance.

However, demand for home to school transport is expected to continue to increase.

Cllr Penny Carpenter, Cabinet Member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, said: "Home to school transport now accounts for 25% of the Children's Services budget and the pressure on the service is unsustainable. That's why I feel I need to bring this to the attention of the government and the public.

"The figure has grown from £38m several years ago and demand continues to rise. We need national investment and national solutions.

"In Norfolk, we are doing everything we can to try to reduce spending, including supporting more children and young people to travel independently and making mainstream transport more inclusive. However, demand continues to rise and fuel and vehicle costs are increasing. The predicted increases in spending in this area are alarming and we need this to be addressed as a matter of urgency by government.

"Our jointly funded Local First Inclusion programme will help to support more children and young people in their local communities but the impact will take time and the budget pressures are being felt now. I back the CCN's call for this to be addressed in the autumn statement."

View the full report on the County Councils Network website .

Last modified: 14 May 2024 12:46

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