‘Worn out’ families force Hampshire council to backtrack on transport cuts for special needs students

Dave Humphries with his 21-year-old stepson, Joe, who was at risk of losing his transport to college from Hampshire County Council.
Dave Humphries with his 21-year-old stepson, Joe, who was at risk of losing his transport to college from Hampshire County Council.
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FAMILIES across Hampshire are ‘worn out’ after forcing the council to reverse its decision to cut transport for special educational needs students.

Legal firm Irwin Mitchell represented more than 30 families across Hampshire, including Waterlooville and Fareham, in their fight to stop the cuts to the student transport.

The council began to inform families in June that the policy change would see some students in post-16 education lose their transport to college.

Dave Humphries was told the council planned to axe the minibus his stepson, Joe, and eight students with learning disabilities used to travel from Waterlooville to Portsmouth College.

The ‘stressful’ process to challenge the policy saw Dave receive letters from the council full of errors in relation to Joe’s course.

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He said: ‘They wrote that they had consulted on his transport to St Vincent College.

‘They had not even copied and pasted in Joe details correctly.'

‘Other people had the wrong details in their letters too.’

‘It wears you down - but the stress and anxiety that hits you the most.'

The council had failed to lawfully consult on the policy and that it amounted to a breach of the Equality Act and human rights law, Irwin Mitchell wrote to Hampshire County Council.

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Alice Cullingworth, a specialist public lawyer at the firm, said: “This has been a very emotional time for the families we represent, as they simply want to ensure that their children can get access to the education they need and deserve.

“The parents we act for are unable to provide transport due to work and other commitments and they were very upset at the prospect of this issue impacting on their children’s wellbeing.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “Firstly, there has been no withdrawal of service. However, we can confirm that a policy, that was in place for post 16 transport for young people with special educational needs for the 2019/20 academic year, has been withdrawn and we are applying the previous policy. We are in the process of reviewing the applications requesting transport in September and will be contacting applicants shortly.'

The council's transport policy for special educational needs students in post-16 education is reviewed annually.