COUNCIL chiefs are to consult on a series of proposals over changes its home to school transport policy for those with special educational needs or disabilities.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive has decided to look at a number of options which have the potential to secure savings of more than £2m a year.

These include removal of the free exemption for post-16 young people with special needs or disabilities.

From September 2018, they would be required to pay for transport they currently access for free, bringing them into line with charges for mainstream pupils; charges which are still lower than many other councils in the country.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s executive member for home to school transport, said: “We are consulting on these proposals with some reluctance. We are one of the few councils left which continues to provide free post-16 home to school transport for those with special needs or disabilities. But as austerity continues our decisions get tougher.

“We hope people will see that we are making every attempt to be fair, that we are consulting with parents, carers and families concerned for their views and that we continue to look for ways to protect the sustainability of this and other frontline services.”

The options considered for consultation are:

1. Removal of free transport exemption for post 16-18 students with special needs or disability from September 2018 to bring it in line with mainstream transport arrangements.

Currently the county council asks for a contribution of £490 per year for post-16 transport for mainstream young people.

This still represents a 43 per cent subsidy for mainstream students and would represent a 94 per cent subsidy for students with special needs or disability.

This charge would be reduced by 50 per cent for low income families and the council would honour current arrangements for existing students to complete their current studies.

2. Recognise post 19 students with special needs or disability as adults in education and identify their transport needs in line with adult social care assessments.

3. a. For all statutory age children (mainstream as well as special needs) increase the parental transport allowance from 30p to 45p per mile when there is no other local authority commissioned transport option available.

b. Introduce an enhanced mileage rate according to need for families with eligible children and young people with special needs or disabilities, as an alternative to council-commissioned taxis.

A further consultation is planned for the spring about the strategic plan for education provision for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

Proposals for the plan are being developed in partnership with parents, carers and schools with the aim of educating as many children and young people with special educational needs or disability as locally as possible.