Leeds City Council is reviewing its model for home to school transport for children with special needs in the face of ‘huge pressure’ as the number of students who qualify continues to increase.
The council’s Passenger Transport service is drawing up new arrangements to begin next April and is discussing joint working with the local health service, as well as consulting Sheffield City Council, which has recently undergone a similar process.
Home to school transport includes wheelchair accessible minibuses
Leeds currently transports 3,200 children and adults with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) every day, using its in-house fleet as well as taxi and private hire companies under an £8m a year framework agreement.
Private hire contractors can provide wheelchair accessible minibuses as well as ‘passenger assistants’, who support the child or adult with learning difficulties throughout their journey
An internal briefing report states: ‘The demand for children’s transport is under huge pressure as there is an increase in the number of children with SEND who qualify for transport as a result of their complex and challenging needs.’
‘In order to meet this demand the in-house service is also reviewing its capacity and over the next two years it will be investing in additional resources, but the demand for transport is such that support is also required from taxi and private hire providers.'
The report adds: ‘As well as an overall increase in the amount of transport required, the specific transport requirements have changed since the last framework; there is a greater need for specialist transport for children with complex medical needs and there is an increase in the demand for passenger assistants; some of this demand will be resourced by the in-house service, but there will be added requirements from providers to support the service.
‘With this in mind meetings have been arranged with the health service, who are in the process of tendering for the supply of taxis and minibuses to support their needs. This may open up the opportunities for joint working.’
The council’s passenger transport service is commissioned by children’s services and adult social care.
It has a statutory responsibility to provide home to school transport for children with special educational needs.
The report warns that without appropriate contractual arrangements, ‘the council would not be able to meet its statutory obligation to provide home to school transport for children and young people with special educational needs’.