County Council to make final decision on proposed changes to School and Post-16 Transport Policies

Hampshire County Council is to consider a number of changes to make its School Transport and Post-16 Transport Policies more flexible and responsive to individual children’s needs

Jan 11 2024

Various proposals were put to the public during two consultations which ran from Monday 30 October to Wednesday 6 December last year. Feedback from these, as well as recommended changes to both policies, will be presented to Councillor Edward Heron, the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, for his final consideration at a Decision Day on Friday, 19 January.

The proposals are not part of a savings programme, and do not include any proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for School Transport or Post-16 Transport. 

Proposed changes to the School Transport Policy

Recommendations for the School Transport Policy include the proposed introduction of Personal Transport Budgets for families with children whose needs cannot be met effectively by local transport operators. In these circumstances, the provision of Personal Transport Budgets could give greater choice and allow families to create more tailored transport arrangements better suited to their children’s individual needs.

Other proposals include the development of an Independent Travel Training offer to support a small number of children to travel independently as part of their preparations for adulthood. The proposal is to offer such a service only where absolutely appropriate, following a thorough assessment of a child’s needs, and only in agreement with a child’s parents.

Also proposed is the regular review of Passenger Assistants (PAs), who accompany eligible children with additional needs on their journeys, to ensure that the right support continues to be in place. This would benefit those children currently without a PA whose needs have now increased; and likewise, those with a PA who have become more independent and no longer require this additional level of support.

Additionally, the County Council is to consider an uplift, in line with inflation, in the parental contribution towards discretionary School Transport services such as Spare Capacity seating, which enables families with children who are not eligible for funded, statutory transport to pay for spare seats on transport contracted by the County Council. Also recommended are some smaller changes to the wording of the policy to reflect the latest Department for Education (DfE) statutory guidance.

For full details of the proposed changes to the School Transport Policy, visit the County Council's website.

Proposed changes to the Post-16 Transport Policy

The Post-16 Transport service is a non-statutory service offered to students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who access further education or training. This is a discretionary service which requires a partial financial contribution from parents, with the majority of the costs funded by the County Council. This contribution does not apply to families on low incomes or in exceptional circumstances and, in 2022/23, was waived for 76.7 per cent of families eligible for Post-16 Transport.   

Both the Post-16 Transport and School Transport services continue to see significant and well documented pressures, including driver shortages, a lack of transport operators, and exceptionally high demand with daily journeys arranged for 13,500 children and young people. Together these challenges have seen the County Council’s combined costs for both services rise to over £50 million a year in 2022/23, compared to £34 million in the previous year. These pressures are entirely in line with those faced by Local Authorities nationally.

Given this significant rise in costs, the County Council will now consider a proposed increase in the parental contribution towards Post-16 Transport, annually from September 2024, in line with inflation.

For full details of the proposed changes to the Post-16 Transport policy, visit the County Council's website.

Councillor Heron will consider the above recommendations, alongside feedback from the recent public consultations, before making a final decision at his upcoming Decision Day. If agreed, the proposed uplift in the parental contribution towards discretionary services would apply from September 2024 while the remaining proposed changes to both policies would come into effect in February 2024.