Consultation on school travel subsidy cuts in East Sussex due to end

LEWES. County Hall SUS-150522-151022001

LEWES. County Hall SUS-150522-151022001

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A consultation on plans to cut school transport funding for hundreds of students from low income families in East Sussex closes next week.

East Sussex County Council started the process in June as it looks to save £1.1m over three years from 2016/17 from the almost £11m it spends annually on getting children to schools and colleges.

Residents can comment on the proposals until Friday, September 11, on the county council’s website. They would see the removal of free and subsidised travel, which is currently available to 16 to 19-year-olds from low income families.

Currently the county council provides travel assistance to about 470 young people from low income families at a cost of about £240,000 a year.

However, the council has no statutory duty to assist in getting children to school after the age of 16.

Proposals would mean that while those currently receiving assistance will not have it withdrawn, changes would affect any new intake from September, 2016.

Meanwhile, 25 per cent of the budget would be retained for a hardship fund, which would be accessed by the most disadvantaged so they can still receive some help in getting to school or college.

Changes could also affect the currently free ‘link transport’, which is provided for a small number of 16 to 19-year-olds in rural locations to get to their nearest bus stop or railway station. This may be axed for new starters from September, 2016.

A parallel consultation is running on reducing the council’s spending on travel for young people aged 16 or over with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Anyone who is already receiving support will have to contribute more towards the cost of travel, for both pre-school and post 16 age groups.

Meanwhile, for new starters after September 2016 support would be offered by the county council to SEND students over 16 in ‘exceptional circumstances only’.

The consultation website says: “The council accepts that any changes will be unpopular and regrettably may impact negatively on young people and their families; however these proposals bring us in line with some other local authorities, and help to save money against a reducing service budget.”

By the county council’s own estimates, 204 post-16 students from low incomes families would be affected in 2016/17, while it would also impact 94 pre-school and post-16 SEND students.

Results of the consultation are expected to be published in November.

To comment visit http://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk

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