Have your say on proposed changes to Havering Council’s ‘home to school travel assistance’ policy

Have your say on the council's home to school travel assistance policy. Picture: Recorder archive

Have your say on the council's home to school travel assistance policy. Picture: Recorder archive - Credit: Archant

Havering Council is inviting residents from across the borough to have their say on changes to the way the local authority helps some parents get their children to and from school.

The local authority publishes a "home to school travel assistance policy" every year, outlining how it plans to help children who require additional support getting to and from school.

This support can range from training young people to develop the skills to travel by themselves, supporting families to take their children to school and sometimes by providing direct council-run transport services.

Under new plans, there would be a seven-step assessment procedure to determine what assistance, if any, a child receives.

Step one would see a request submitted online, which is then reviewed by the council.

In a small number of cases, the council will make an immediate decision, but most of the time council officers will then contact parents to discuss the application further.

Follow-ups may be carried out in person, or over the phone, and will help officers better understand the young person's strengths and also the challenges facing them.

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The council and parents will then begin discussing the available solutions - schools, colleges and case officers may also have input at this stage in the process.

Step five would see agreement reached on the best solution, with step six seeing the council confirming the arrangements - or lack thereof - in writing, and the seventh and final step would see parents confirm in writing acceptable of those arrangements.

Options listed by the council in the official consultation document include:

n Travel training, which would see the council offer children courses as long as three months which aim to teach children better skills to travel to and from school independently;

n Someone close to the family or a family member themselves driving the child to school and claiming fuel reimbursement payments of 44p per mile; or

n A direct transport service which may involve parents dropping children at a meeting point.

If parents or guardians are unhappy with the conclusions reached during the proposed process, they would be entitled to a two-stage appeals process.

The first stage would see the people who made the original decision review the request.

If, after the outcome of that first stage review, the parents remain unsatisfied, they can refer the decision to a second stage appeals panel consisting of people who were not involved in the original decision making process.

A "frequently asked questions" document provided to parents goes into more detail about why the changes have been deemed necessary by the council and what they could potentially mean going forward.

The document states: "Our population of young people is expected to increase over the next few years and we need to prepare for the future and become flexible in how we provide our services so we can meet the changing demand and promote resilience and independence in our community.

"Although our service budgets are increased each year, the demand for our travel assistance service is increasing at a rate that we cannot continue to sustain unless we work with our residents and think differently about how we provide support, by using our resources to deliver sustainable solutions."

It adds: "We're proposing to change the process for assessing travel assistance needs so it takes a personalised look at the student's situation, their strengths and the challenges in family life.

"We'll be asking for minimal information from you on the initial application form, which asks you why you are applying for assistance from us.

"From this, we may talk to you, the student and other professionals involved in the student's life in order to make a decision.

"We may work with you to look at ways that challenges can be overcome to support the student getting to school without support from us, or with minimal support from us."

Residents have until Monday, March 7 to respond to the proposals.

To do so online, visit consultation.havering.gov.uk.