A PROPOSED shake-up in home-to-school transport for young people with special needs or disabilities has been announced by Bury Council.
It follows a change in the law on the what councils are required to provide when getting children to and from school, college, respite care facilities and on short breaks.
Young people often travel by minibus and the proposed changes aim to offer more independence.
A council report said: “The manner in which transport and financial assistance for travel is currently provided is no longer totally compatible with the principals of reforms, which place greater emphasis on the needs of the child or young person, and planning for their future to enable greater flexibility and choice in the way parents or carers access provision.”
Under the proposed new system, the council would assess if each person can travel independently or if their families can fund transport using their personal care budget.
If not, their parents can be paid to take them to school.
Only when those options have been ruled out will a minibus be laid on and, if possible, the pick-up point will be communal, rather than at their door.
The council’s children’s representative Cllr Paddy Heneghan said that the town hall is not expecting to save money from the change and finance is not the reason for making it.
He added: “The idea is to make children as independent as possible.
“There is a feeling that some children who are, for example, capable of walking part way to school independently are instead being taken from their front door on a minibus.
“The change is aimed at improving their self confidence and social skills.
“They will get all the support they need, whether it be routetraining, planning for when things go wrong or whatever else is necessary.”
The report said a version of the system was introduced at Elms Bank Specialist Arts College in Whitefield and the number of local authority vehicles required to transport students has been reduced as a result.
However, the report acknowledged that the change could be open to legal challenge and risks “reputational damage to the council.”
A consultation process with all parents and carers affected by the changes is now under way.